Admittedly, back in 2000 when I’d first heard Bob Holroyd’s A Different Space, I didn’t get it, and I was completely baffled by all the hubbub that soon thereafter followed. Not far removed from my all-too-brief stint with New Age Voice, A Different Space reminded me a lot of what I disliked most about the New Age genre: uninspired, oftentimes insipid amalgamations of cultural appropriation. While most of the crystal-and-dolphin crowd at the time were ganking Tibetan monk samples like it was the law, Holroyd plundered freely throughout other parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa. But, other than that, I didn’t see much difference.
I do now. Holroyd’s vision has a bit more depth and complexity, and definitely a much broader appeal. At his worse (like in “Rafiki (Sidewalk mix)” and “The Spaces in Between”), Holroyd offers up some New Age synth schlock that confuses in its boredom. “Confluence” blends the aforementioned somnambulance with a pure Latin excitement that leaves one baffled. But, then, there are times when Without Within simply puts a smile on your face: “Rafiki (Township mix)” is a really nice mid-tempo, celebratory dance track; “Re-Awakening the Spirits” is a blazing Afro-house cut that would leave Frederic Galliano blushing; and “When the Rains Came” is absolutely electric. And, at his best, in songs like “Looking Back” and “At the Waters Edge,” the man is a consummate artist. Holroyd pieces together these incredibly subtle, electro-tribal soundscapes that transport you into this “primitive,” futuristic meeting of the nations that is haunting and beautiful. Much like Bill Laswell’s Imaginary Cuba, he brands a spectral vision upon your cortex that is so quiet and yet so vivid, you are left blinded. And, as though he’s a true disciple of In a Silent Way, he uses space and things-unarticulated in such a majestic manner, you marvel.
Without Within is a difficult album to put a finger on. Holroyd is a complicated artist that I have, personally, grown to admire, and this album is definitely worth your attention.
Six Degrees: http://www.sixdegreesrecords.com/