Vaguely a concept album (No! Wait! Come back!) based around recreating time spent living and traveling through Australia, Holt (named after an aussie prime minister who disappeared while swimming) are by far the poppiest proposition to emerge from the Deserted Village collective. Recorded in all night sessions in cottages in the Irish coastal countryside, Holt meld rootsy backpack rock with wistful folk, with vast open spaces reflected in the record’s widescreen production, rich with sparkling acoustic guitars and melancholic piano, lonely trumpet and meandering melodica. The most disarming track, “A Melbourne nocturne”, is a heartbreaking duet between a boy and a girl, with the lyric “I’ve been drinking unholy water all week, if I wasn’t so dehydrated I’d cry”, embodying the spirit of the Red House Painters if they were stranded in the outback. 80 Mile Beach is an album infused with the loss and (e)motion that characterises a drifting population, always moving on, forever saying goodbye. A record of searching stoicism. Keith Wallace
These songs were written during a trip to Australia, back in 2002 or 2003, and then they became recorded when the company arrived back home to Ireland. Those who are HOLT are, according to what the booklet says, Alan (I think he should be considered the main brain, at least he’s the one answering when writing to the band’s e-mail address), David (Colohan aka Agitated Radio Pilot, also known for singing in United Bible Studies and for ”running” the Deserted Village collective), Conor, Stephen, Enda, Caroline, Colin, Steve and Brian. They’ve divided the instrumentation, not always very evenly though. While David plays guitar, mandolin, didgeridoo, piano, synth and lap steel and Alan, Stephen and Conor is doing about the same (slightly more or less), poor Brian is credited for his ”unused vocals”. That made me laugh. Another thing that made me laugh was when I read how the band got their name, or rather, when I read about the faith of the man they’ve taken their name from. I quote:
”Named after the prime minister who went for a swim and never came back”. Which is most true and most literally. Harold took a swim and disappeared. That’s the most tragicomic thing I’ve heard and the straight forward way the band put it out is very funny.
But enough of introducing the band now. Let’s get it on.
”80 Mile Beach” is HOLT’s first and only album, released back in 2003. As I stated, these songs were written in Australia, and the band has been trying to capture the spirit of that island, how it is to be on the move and thrown in some more sentimental stuff as well. We are guided through a wide range of genres and styles here, including some college rock, some more noisy rock, white man’s reggae... But most of the songs are based in mellow guitar plucking and David’s always-wonderful-to-hear vocals. Even though this is by far the oldest material I’ve heard him sing, he sounds pretty much like he did on ”World Winding Down” released in late 2007, if not better. It’s also fun to hear him in a different context than I’m getting used to. I mean, the college rock song (which really isn’t college rock for real) I was talking about, which by the way is one about that Harold Holt guy called ”Harold’s Tactical Withdrawal”, would have been a very boring track without his contribution. It has some nice trumpet toots as well, thanks to Colin.
”Wilpena Pound Shop Blues” is the reggae one. It’s not really reggae for real, but it makes me sway in a reggae way, with backbeats and tripping guitar strokes. It’s probably the one I’ve listened to the most... That one and the one called ”In The Bar Before the Chorus” which is really a world class melancholic folksy ballad, the only thing I don’t like about it might be the lyrics, but it could, as it sounds, just as well be an Agitated Radio Pilot hit.
Further standout songs; the piano based sadness in ”Outline Of A City, Leaving” and another great and relaxing one on guitar called ”Lake Argyle Dam”. In the whole, this CD makes me think of Justin Sullivan’s solo commitment ”Navigating by the Stars” and I hope HOLT will take that as a compliment. And in the whole HOLT was great indeed. I hope that I someday will be able to say that HOLT IS great, but I don’t know if they will ever be around again. If you are, like I am, pretty new on this Deserted Village / Agitated Radio Pilot / related path, be sure to make a stop here for a while. If you’ve been in the game for a while, I’m pretty sure you’ve already got this fabulous album near you. Shadows Commence
released September 17, 2012
Tracks 1-10 comprise the original album, released on Deadslackstring in 2003. Track 11 is an unused song from the same sessions & Track 12 appeared on a zine compilation around the same time, credited to The Harold Holt Continuum, as was our name at the time. Tracks 13-19 come from a gig in The Boom Boom Room in November 2004 & Track 20 from a gig at The Ruby Sessions in Doyles, Dublin. Although Holt played fairly regularly in Dublin at the time, the only gigs down the country were in Cork & Ballymahon & were not recorded, to my knowledge. Tracks 13, 14 & 15 were intended to appear on the second album, which sadly never materialised. I re-imagined them for Agitated Radio Pilot's 'The Ebb & Flow Of Distant Moonlit Grass', which continued many of the themes explored in Holt. Track 18 is a medley of themes from Irish children's TV shows. I used to play it around campfires in Australia & it always went down well, though that may be lost on non-Irish listeners.
'The Flying Gang' & 'Clancy of the Overflow' are poems by Banjo Paterson which we set to music. I first heard 'Clancy..' recited by a man from Sydney in a hostel in Broken Hill, NSW after we'd had a few beers. it struck me as a powerful piece, powerfully read & I was eager to record a version of it.
'80 Mile Beach is the first release by Dublin based quartet Holt, on deadslackstring records.Having travelled across Australia, both together and separately, Holt was formed in 2002 out of a need to recapture the experience of this vast country in words and sound. In order to recreate the backpacker spirit, they closed themselves off in cottages in Kerry and Wexford over the summer of 2003, surrounded themselves with copious mind-altering substances and occasionally went down the local for quiet pints. The lyrics and music were arrived at in this relaxed fashion, with most recording done in the middle of the night. Following these sessions, the band returned to Dublin to lay down some trumpet, uillean pipes and drums. An appearance on a Hot Press cd, Irish Times reviews, and a bunch of well received gigs around the country, headlining, and supporting Stars of the City and Nad Navillus took them through the rest of 2003. Named after the Australian prime minister Harold Holt, who went for a swim and never came back, 80 Mile Beach delves into Australian culture through the use of Banjo Patterson poems (The Flying Gang) and songs about Holt’s death (Harold’s Tactical Withdrawal).Their songs reflect lives on the move and endless dirt roads, broken hearts and desert crossings, the sound of rain forests at night and birds on distant islands...' Press Release
Bass, Vocals, Percussion, Piano, Synthesizer – Alan Caulfield
Drums – Enda Trautt
Trumpet - Colin Hoye
Guitar, Guitar [Electric], Piano, Synthesizer, E-bow – Stephen O'Brien
Keyboards, Vocals, Percussion, Piano, Synthesizer, Jew's Harp – Conor Foley
Vocals [Unused], Other [Muse] – Brian MacManus
Vocals, Guitar, Melodica, Didgeridoo, Piano, Synthesizer, Guitar (Lap Steel) – Dave Colohan
Steve Coleman - Uileann Pipes & Tin Whistle (Track 5)
Caroline Coffey - Vocals (Track 8)
Masterd by Gavin Prior. Cover design by Holt & Gavin Prior.
Thanks to James Rider for letting it out into the world...
'Colohan seems to have a preternatural sense of the elemental, those dark places we all go to take off our disguises. So
many artists have treaded this ground before and seemed insincere, but Colohan's vulnerability, his human voice that presents these unadorned truths without spin or motive, makes me want to listen and believe.' Foxy Digitalis...more