Belfast DJ and producer David Holmes came to attention in 1997 with his
inspired, thematic tribute to New York City madness, Let's Get Killed.
As a result of its modest success, his 1995 debut album, This Film's Crap Let's Slash the Seats, is now seeing U.S. release, along with a bonus CD of remixes and additional cuts.
Stretching well over two hours, and encompassing many musical styles, the package tends toward the overwhelming. Do we really need five mixes of "Gone" (Real Audio excerpt),
featuring the barely audible vocals of Saint Etienne's Sara Cracknell? The track is hardly a confirmed classic. The most noticeable difference between Holmes' two recorded works is their flexibility.
Let's Get Killed was positively funky throughout, the result of an eclectic DJ's increasing adeptness at studio trickery. The preceding This Film's Crap seems somewhat wooden in retrospect, the beats and grooves seeming square both in style and shape. They are painfully long, too: the shortest track is nearly seven minutes.
It's not surprising that the best cuts are those which bend most: the repetitive title sample of "Shake Ya Brain" (RealAudio excerpt) the bleeps and bloops of the Orbital-like "Got ****ed Up Along the Way" and the closing "Coming Home to the Sun," with Cara Robinson's angelic voice. Among the bonus tracks, "Smoked Oak" (RealAudio excerpt) is my favorite, swooping and soaring joyously as the best melodic electronic music does.
Also commendable on Holmes' debut is the use of sound effects. The church bells that open "No Man's Land" seem as if they're coming from outside a window rather than from a set of speakers; the use of the "Quadrophenia" train whizzing by at the end of "Slash the Seats" is a tribute to Holmes' mod-music passions; and the spaghetti-western guitar of "Inspired by Leyburn" exemplifies the album's filmic bent.
If This Film's Crap aspires to be a coordinated menu of modern electronic music, the bonus disc is more of a potluck. Anyone who's bought a couple of 12" remixes in recent years will know what to expect: some drum 'n' bass, some harsh, spare beats, some straight dance and a lot of downbeat ambient trip-hop. Rewarding in places, boring in others.
Particularly when allowing just how much an improvement Let's Get Killed was
over his debut and given that his new album, mostly recorded
in New York, is all but complete the re-release of This Film's Crap is
nothing more than a stopgap.