For a record that pulls so heavily on hold music, an image of the sea from the perspective of the shoreline couldn’t be more apt. Both provide objects for wayward attention (hold music in the void of pure waiting between events of overt purpose, the sea as the antithesis to the routine churn of life on land) and both offer the comfort of binding to a stimulus without the expectation of dialogue. Hold music is as tidal water: all movement and no content, capturing the lights of listener consciousness without colouring them. Yet just as one’s own reflection begins to pull focus in the transparency of the water, the seemingly neutral cycles of drum loops, keyboards, saxophones and alienated voices start to mingle with the growing pull of introspection. Perhaps the danger of this emotional ambiguity is the ability to imbue it with anything. The instruments melt together – synth-slathered disco dragged to pedestrian tempo, blurry trip-hop shuffling in circles, avoiding sharp chord progressions in favour of smears of feeling – and their dusken idling turns increasingly melancholic the more mindfully they’re appraised. Two minutes is just long enough for the sadness to start seeping in, yet not so long that it subsumes the pensive levity entirely.
So where does love fit in here? The advice to “hold onto love” feels stated from the perspective of someone who didn’t, as an implicit admission that love was lost. Perhaps these pieces simulate that complacency – the wistful headspace that receives love and neglects to return it, these melodies retroactively coloured with the ensuing state of regret. To add a further emotional energy here, the record seems to reference hold music of a specific kind: one installed in the 90s and never replaced, warbling and recovering, half-degraded yet perishing no further, rich in a nostalgia for failing media (both the analogue of worn tape and the digital of low bitrate), held eternally above the moment of death. Coupled with the fact that this album is essentially a daisychaining of interstices, leading the listener out of one waiting room and into another, this record is experienced as the persistent postponement of release. Each fadeout signals an exit from the hold music, and I half-expect to hear a voice thanking me for waiting. Instead, I nurture the slow suspicion that this so-called experiential “placeholder” is not actually holding the place for another, but is in fact the object itself.