Holograms - Holograms
Record Label: Captured Tracks
Release Date: July 9, 2012
From the first monotonous bass introduction of Hologram’s self-titled effort, listeners can rest assured that the quartet will deliver their purported post-punk vibes with little room for breath. Straight out of Stockholm and pushing grudgingly forward, this Swedish rock band has a unique appeal to which both old-school fans of punk and listeners searching for a newer sound will admire, as they blend the performance and production of nostalgic 70’s punk with some new and varied instrumentation. Although there are some dips in the album, their energy is ever-present and reminiscent of Swedish punk acts these members grew up listening to, like Ebba Gron and Anti Cimex, and the textural urban feeling perpetuated as tracks press on becomes more appealing with every listen.
Before moving too far into the instrumentation, I would like to say that perhaps one of the most refreshing things about the album is the texture and timbre of the overall record. It sounds like an absolute throwback to the analog recordings that filled the 70s and 80s punk scene: the guitar largely takes a back seat to the rhythm section, more or less providing a chordal structure for every other instrument to build upon. This is one of the most bass-prominent records I can remember hearing in the past few years, even though the harmonic structure doesn’t branch into anything mind-blowing, and always keeps the band grounded. All of the instruments combine to form a grind-along, stilted yet smooth, and never superfluous sound which Punks both old and new will be able to appreciate.
Let’s talk about the synthesizer. When you hit the second track of the record, “Chasing My Mind,” it’s pretty difficult to ignore. My mind tends to jump to the somewhat distant genre of so-called “nintendocore,” with its random introductions of 8-bit synthesized music from the good old NES-days. Holograms doesn’t represent the same sort of frantic energy that nintendocore groups claim, but it’s hard to not be set off by the unexpected synthesized melodies that jump out of several tracks on this album. Of course, with such a concept, it’s easy to rely on it as your primary pull, in which case it becomes a crutch and novelty that fans will quickly grow tired of, and Holograms makes a halfway intelligent decision to only really rely on the synthesizer in about 2 tracks on the album. It appears in many more, but “Chasing My Mind” and “Astray” both feature the synthesizer as the largest melodic element of their structure, with “Fever” also using is prominently to play the primary hook of the track. I say this decision was halfway intelligent simply because I could have honestly used more of it. When it’s introduced on the second tracks of the album, you can’t help but begin to wonder where the group will take it as the album progresses, and although there are some solid uses of the analog synth throughout the album, it feels like ultimately they decided the best way to avoid novelty was to limit it’s track usage. This is an instrument that could be treated just like any other instrument in a standard band, and how often do you hear people call a guitar or bass as a novelty? It becomes tiresome if you only use it one way, but I think the band may have missed out on a very creative opportunity to use the synth in new and interesting ways on each track. Ultimately, something I look forward to them working out on their next record.
There’s a strange urban sense that pervades this record. Or perhaps urban decay is a better term. Whether it be the messy guitar, the frantic drums, the pounding bass, or the apathetically refreshing vocals (they refuse to stay melodic), it’s very easy to close your eyes and imagine Holograms is simply playing a show in your basement, which they may very soon be. Condemned cinderblock houses with weeds and graffiti spotting the canvas, and a bleak, damp day: this is a good image when trying to imagine Hologram’s sound. And I absolutely do not mean that as an insult; the desolate and pounding nature of the music is refreshing to my ears, and I suspect it will win over many more listeners in the future. This is a solid recommendation from me, and I anxiously await another album from this promising troupe.