The release of James Holden's long-anticipated second album The Inheritors in the summer of 2013 kicked off a bold new phase in the British electronics guru's musical career.
An epic 75 minute long English pagan saga, the immersive and idiosyncratic alternative electronic universe of The Inheritors was the product of Holden's late night studio jams on his modular synthesizer and custom hybrid analogue-digital machines. But with a recording process that had become so focused around the capturing of his own in-the-moment live performances, it was not long before the act of travelling the world playing other peoples records as part of Holden's international DJ career of some years standing began to feel increasingly out of step with his most recent studio explorations: the time had clearly come to take the plunge with a touring live show all of his very own.
Holden had long been a fan of the London-born brotherly synth-and-drum improv duo Rocketnumbernine, so their jazz-trained drummer Tom Page was the natural first choice to complement Holden and his newly-condensed portable modular set-up on this fledgling live outings, placing electronics and drums head to head in an improvised reimagining of tracks from The Inheritors. And thanks to Oxford maths graduate Holden's self-coded interactive drummer-following software – which is informed by the latest mathematical models of musician's timing – the nuanced drumming of Tom Page is liberated from the tyranny of the click track which usually dominates any attempt to integrate real drums with live electronic performance: instead, Holden's arpeggios are hung off Page's drum hits, enabling this electronically-minded duo to play with the interconnected togetherness of a “proper” live band.
This may all seem a long way from 1999's exuberant teenage trance hit Horizons, the 12” single which first thrust the classically-trained 19 year old James Holden onto the global dance music scene thanks to an early intervention from Sony Music, opening up an intensive course of remixing, producing, collaborations and DJing in place of the conventional graduate career path. But it was with the formation of his own Border Community record label in 2003 that Holden really began to assert his singular vision, unleashing a bonafide dancefloor classic with his own unstoppable remix of Nathan Fake's The Sky Was Pink (2004) before flexing his album muscles with his milestone debut The Idiots Are Winning in 2006. And now, as he kits out his spacious new studio building in London in preparation for the recording sessions for his next album opus, this one-time lonesome bedroom producer looks intent on keeping live collaborative performance at the centre of his music-making for the forseeable future.