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Bow Down To The Exit Sign

David Holmes
Bow Down To The Exit Sign
(1500 Records/Go! Beat)

David Holmes cinematic fascination has been readily apparent since his debut album This Films Crap Lets Slash The Seats. Although that release was somewhat less cohesive than his follow-up of Lets Get Killed, the title gives away things pretty well and he started exploring some paths musically that he's since followed to varying success. Finally, a couple years back, he got the chance to score chunks of the film Out Of Sight and did what I considered to be an excellent job. The shorter tracks fit with his often-repetitive style a little bit better without getting overbearing and the batch of sweltering tracks that he put together for the release fit perfectly into the context of the film.

On this release, though, it seems like he's gone yet one step further in the direction of creating a cinematic album, only this time he's trying to do the conjuring. He mixes sampled sound bites and street noise and more of a gritty, almost garage band sound on a lot of the tracks to tell a story of a dirty, corrupt city (he's probably talking about New York, since the Big Apple has more than once been the subject of his songs). Assembling a monstrous batch of musicians and singers on the release (including Kevin Shields, Bobby Gillespie, Martina Topley-Bird, Jon Spencer, and Carl Hancock Rux), the disc feels more like a rock release by an actual band than anything that Holmes has done before.

Fortunately the release works most of the time, and although it's a huge departure for those expecting more of the same from Holmes, it's easily the most sonically interesting release by him thusfar. Sure, there are definitely derivative moments, both where Holmes seems to rip off himself and other people (the liner notes and the mood, although differently executed, are both similar to Haunted Dancehall by the Sabres Of Paradise), there's still such an amount of variety on the release that it's hard to not find something you like. Like the newer No Comprendo release by Khan, this is one of the first times that Holmes has worked with vocalists to such an extent, but manages to pull things off fairly well (despite falling into the same trap that Khan did of creating songs for the singers that don't depart at all from their typical style).

That said, when Bobby Gillespie sings on his two tracks, they sound like amped-up tracks from Primal Screams XTRMNTR release, while "Bad Thing" with Jon Spencer on vocals basically sounds like a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion track if they went slightly psychedelic. In my opinion, it's the other two vocalists enlisted and the instrumental tracks that shine still, though. Topley-Bird, not heard in her full splendor since way back on the Pre-Millenium Tension release by Tricky, struts her stuff on a couple of excellent tracks. "Outrun" slums along with a thick bassline and some other moody effects while "Zero Tolerance" lets her rock out even more than she did on the cover of "Black Steel" from Maxinquaye. Hancock Rux adds some silky vocals to a couple tracks and gives the album a deep injection of soul that it doesn't get from the howling rock singers.

Although neither "Incite A Riot" nor "69 Police" sound as hard-edged as their titles might suggest, they're some of the best instrumental tracks that Holmes has ever done. The former is a funky, upbeat track with some nice juicy organs (the instrument, not eviscerated) that starts out with one of his trademark sampled street person rants while the latter moves along with a shimmering hope that is only recaptured again on the final track. "Hey Lisa" builds into an uplifting track with strings and a rocking beat, and it closes out the album on an upbeat note. As mentioned above, it's a bit of an odd outing for Holmes. There are plenty of growling guitars and meaty basslines from actual played instruments and sound samples play more of a background, atmosphere-building role than the repetitive uses on his previous releases. Hopefully he finds a new fascination, as I can't imagine the whole crazy city theme lasting much longer, but it's been fun.

Rating: 7.25