Review: Holly Hunt – Year One

My experience of Year One feels similar in spirit to The Light Carriers by Hyatari – both share the sense of spanning their music out into an infinite vertical line, at once a concentrated, primitive surge of instinct and a transcendent trip to the universe’s farthest reaches. There’s also a certain likeness in guitar tone (somewhere between the mid-frequency mud of Sleep and the angular drive of Ufomammut), which somehow sounds both terrifically destructive and as smooth as water; a spiritual cleansing via out-and-out obliteration. A weighty repetition locks riffs into relentless orbit, though while many artists use this as a means to haul the listener into some sort of high-volume excruciation bliss, Holly Hunt utilise it to bring the act of transition – be it in slight riff adjustments or dramatic tempo contrasts between tracks – to a monolithic, earthshaking scale, rupturing the mirage stasis with stark swerves in direction. One gets the impression that the band derive a certain twisted delight in tearing up the ground that solidifies under foot, swapping a slow-motion crawl for hyper-tempo krautrock in seconds flat.

In fact, the album is a theatre of the unexpected from start to finish, and it becomes increasingly clear that Holly Hunt aren’t chained to the stoner lethargy that fuel their opening throws. “Disco Is Dead” bounces off the ceiling with the slick optimism of Torche (funnily enough, Jonathan Nunez from said band is on recording duties here), while “Maraschino” staggers through the same melancholy swamp of palm-muting and crash cymbal that so often populates the music of Jesu. Taken for its elements alone, there’s actually very little in terms of sonic variation going on here – power-chords, downtunings and a delightful snare snap comprise the palette throughout – yet that doesn’t stop those abrupt flits between astral doom and flurries of high speed knocking everything out of joint, as though someone has suddenly switched the gravity off.