Last month, Leeds, UK band Holodrum dropped the introduction to their scratchy, synthy art-funk manifesto in debut single “Free Advice,” which captured a particular sound in 80s lore and smeared it with a barely discernible layer of Northern English cynicism, typical of the area. The promise of “Free Advice” is delivered on Holodrum’s self-titled new album, released on Gringo Records. The bubble-gum disco is open for business here, except the bubble-gum is drugs. The drugs in question being the euphoric dopamine hits administered by this impressive debut. All members of Holodrum cover the expanse of the Leeds independent music scene, and all seven of them combine forces to form a singular focus: to put a fuzzy funk filter over everything in life and dance until you die. It seems as good an endgame as any.
Primarily, Holodrum clinically documents the point at which lo-fi background music boils over and explodes into a cathartic flurry of limbs and sardonic one-liners with a 50% hit rate. Opening track “Lemon Chic” sets the monochromatic tone with abandon, the drums thumping persistently and the bass and brass providing the requisite bounce to begin proceedings with due purpose. Vocalist Emily Garner hits the right tone immediately, finding that almost impossible balance between pleading and disinterested, while the guitar and subtle electronics feed each other to capacity while chewing up the scenery.
“No Dither” uses the electro-pop elements even more liberally, allowing the guitars and bass to get swamped in a swirling inferno of digital reverb before triumphantly emerging and giving the song a satisfying conclusion. “Stage Echo” begins by taking proceedings down a notch, with a suave bassline and the insistence on providing anything you want enticing the listener in before clobbering them with a guttural synth line and moving into definitively darker, but no less danceable, territory. The light-hearted, buoyant mood is restored by “Low Light,” in which the synthesis of digital and organic reaches its peak and creates a psychedelic collage which reaches fever pitch, threatening to spill into chaos before calming down and putting its shoes back on.
“Clean” closes out the release and, at nearly eight minutes, it stands as Holodrum’s current jazz funk magnum opus. The opening bass stab sounds like the 80s cop show they banned for graphic content before the vocals glide in to harmonise and echo around the steadily more persuasive rhythm that’s as persistent as it is shiny. The joyous naivete of the eighties is tempered by an edge forged by everything learned in the following decades and the album manages to valiantly cling to this isolated strand of optimism enough to weave an undeniably funky tapestry into a nice kaftan. Hypnotic grooves and infectious melodies strong-arm you into a drug-fuelled cruise through Driller Killer-era New York, riding on potentially fatal English idealism. They usually don’t like tourists, but I hear that’s changing, maybe Holodrum will debunk the myth. Buy Holodrum here.