Monday, March 2, 2015

HOLLY HUNT - 'Year One'

Miami, Florida two-piece tone worshippers/manipulators Holly Hunt are hell-bent on eroding the listener to a nub with a systematic onslaught of down-tuned distortion and repetition. 2012’s full-length Year One finds the duo of guitarist Gavin Perry and former Floor drummer Beatriz Monteavaro joining the ranks of other like-minded low-end enthusiasts such as Ladybird, Conan, and, most similarly, Belfast greats Slomatics—a band who incidentally shares a destructive and complementary 2014 split with Holly Hunt. Year One, like a plunge into icy depths, is an immediate jolt to the system, but, after a few spins, the listener quickly grows accustomed to the waters and some of the album’s charm begins to slowly melt away.

Year One’s greatest strengths—an impenetrable, thick-as molasses-tone and a hypnotic use of repetition—ultimately proves to be the album’s greatest weakness in the log run. It’s difficult not to be immediately swept up in the tide of the duo’s waves of fuzzed-out distortion and rhythmic battery, but the lack of dynamics ultimately leaves the listener washed ashore.

To Holly Hunt’s credit they keep their songs tight and concise. Year One consists of ten instrumental tracks spread out over forty minutes giving the band ten opportunities for slight variations on a similar theme. The truly interesting thing about many of the songs, from a listener’s perspective, is that it is not hard to imagine, or actually hear, vocal melodies buried deep within some of the tracks. There is hallucinatory quality born from the recurring, circular rhythms of the band.

It would be too simple and lazy to dismiss Year One as being monochromatic because the album does have its standout moments. “Manchurian Candidate” is a staggering beast of a track that falls somewhere between the down-tuned obliteration created by Slomatics and the “pop” sludge of Torche. Though Holly Hunt deal almost exclusively in heavy, thick as mortar riffs, the duo manages to summon a brief, three minute moment of beauty with “Molasses.” An extended harmony of feedback opens the track before some of Perry’s “brightest” riffs take center stage.

Despite often being sidled with the “drone” tag, Holly Hunt are clearly working within traditional song structures, albeit with an unwavering predilection for simplicity and, for a lack of a better word, rawness. Year One is a stripped-down, bare-bones contemplation on heft and, more importantly, the effects of repetition. The album is instantly gratifying, but the lack of dynamics may be a slight drawback for some.

(Originally published at Heathen Harvest Periodical, edited by Sage Weatherford)