In the grand tradition of reviewing every single Photophob release in existence – because who besides Herwig Holzmann records such consistently compelling work in such quantity? – we here at Critical Masses bring you a review of his eight hundredth release, And All the Dreams You Don’t Remember, which is actually his fourth release on M-Tronic, a “French Electronic Label,” so claims their website. Who am I to argue? They’re French, they’re not liars. And I’m not a liar either.
Holzmann has been mellowing as he gets older, and I don’t blame him. He and I roughly occupy similar stages of life – family, kid, birthdays on the doorstep of middle age, probably a growing penchant for quieter music as we become immobile and deaf (ha ha!…) – so we both get it. By “it” I mean there’s less to get outwardly perturbed about, no more banging your head in frustration. You embrace more things – you notice more, you exist in relation to things outside of yourself. You certainly have no need to make Music for Spaceports anymore. Well, at least Holzmann doesn’t. I never made anything as wild and exciting and young as Music for Spaceports. I’m just empathizing.
Instead, you (the general “you”) make things like twelve-minute shuffly dub passages with titles like “The Distant Smiles of People on Old Photographs.” These tracks are content to wander, to explore, to expand, and to act as your companion wherever you may find yourself. They are also content to accompany you well past middle age into doddering old age, as the haunting yet familiar (I just can’t place it…) “You Won’t Remember My Touch and You Know It” will plaster a smile on your face and leave it there long past the point of your recollection of why it’s there in the first place. But listen to the track, and be wonderfully mesmerized.
I’m not suggesting in the slightest that Photophob has gone all soft, all senile on us, because he hasn’t. I merely poke a bit of good-natured fun at his longevity, but what we should really be doing is admiring it. And All the Dreams You Can’t Remember is not only a logical progression of what began with Wasteland Vibes and carried through Holzmann’s later-period releases, it’s also a decidedly well-crafted signpost along Holtzmann’s entire career. There’s a maturity in its restraint, and the eagle-eared listener will be rewarded upon careful consideration. His take on dub here is fluid, dipping into ambient music at times, and often utilizing samples of the cracks and pops of physical equipment, giving the music a lived-in feel. He even veers ever so slightly into pop territory, as “Hypnogogia” could easily slide onto a chillwave mixtape’s track listing.
The “Dub” tracks are the backbones here; the first, “One Sample Dub (at 69.8 bpm, A#),” cloaks its rhythm in glorious haze, and “Untitled Dub (at 101.0 bpm, D#),” a spiritual (and somewhat titular) cousin, does a similar thing, but more ominously. They’re like mission statements for the album: quiet, somber, assured, and spectacular. Again, they’re quite good as emotional companions or guides, soundtrack material for big headphones out in the world. And “Untitled Dub” segues nicely into album closer “For Those Who’ve Lost a Loved One,” a sad, ambient dirge speaking to all of us at this stage of life, because we have lost loved ones, and we need somebody there with us. Might it be Old Man Photophob?
…Oh crap, no, I was just kidding about the “Old Man” thing! I’m one of them too, embracing it!
RIYL: Wasteland Vibes, Winter Forest Drones, Cymru