James Holden - At The Controls
Excerpts from Disc One of At The Controls
Click here to listen to excerpts from Disc Two of At the Controls

I got this disc in the middle of last year, and after an initial listen it sat on my shelf until recently.  It was only after I’d listened to Holden’s Balance 005 from 2003 that I thought I’d give this dual disc mix another listen to.

Maybe I’ve changed, because I initially was not willing to invest 2+ hours of listening time to a disc that was not what I expected. I put it aside mostly because initially this release just seemed like a downtempo mix.  Later, when I had little new stuff to listen to, I gave it an honset listening effort.  After a few careful listenings, I realize that this release is a wonderful example of the soundscapes and textures that electronic music can create.  While not a dance disc – it is a wonderful collection of electronic music put together in a careful and thoughtful manner.  This would make great music for a soundtrack, because it evokes many different emotions.  The disc does kick in a few times with driving dance beats or breaks, but in general it’s very subdued.  While listening to this I can’t help but reflect back to the minimal beauty of Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” or some of The Beatles later works – particularly “Revolution #9”.  “At the Controls” is not as minimal as “Music for Airports”, nor does it incorporate lots of random sounds like “#9”, but it does have the same kind of beauty in it’s melodies, segue ways and transitions. 


Though I’ve grown to like this dual disc set, I still believe that it’s a “DJ’s” or electronic music afficianado’s album.  This would be a tough pill to swallow if it was one’s first electronic music purchase. 

Additional review comments on Disc Two excerpts page