You might think you’d stumbled upon some forgotten group from the British Isles.
holon is the project of Ronny Pedersen, a musician with a deep appreciation for the woody, folky sound of Fairport Convention and Pentangle. There’s also more than a dash of the hard-driving guitar sounds of vintage Wishbone Ash like Argus and an undeniable Pink Floyd vibe that hovers like an airborne sow.
Those acts emerged in the golden age of vinyl and, listening to Time is Always Now, one senses that it, too, could have been tracked at that time. The cut and pasting of the digital era is nowhere to be found, and the bass and drums has a tendency to sound deader and looser than contemporary producers like. The guitars, both acoustic and electric, chime and sing, unencumbered by a wall of effects or endless affectations. If you didn’t know better, you might think you’d stumbled upon some forgotten group from the British Isles.
It’s not all deep throwback. “Two Grains of Sand” blends Euro pop with pagan rhythms, making the tune somewhat contemporary. “Time to Go” and the title track often bear a striking resemblance to Steven Wilson’s work both in and out of Porcupine Tree.
Still, the former’s bass lines and jazz-inspired rhythms could have easily come from the Soft Machine or Pink Floyd during its wilderness years, that clump of time when that most British of acts had not yet matured into the powerhouse that would forever change rock with Dark Side of the Moon. Hints of David Gilmour emerge in elongated passages seven minutes into the title tune. The music has a spare, haunting quality that’s comforting, foreboding and undeniably beautiful. (You’ll also smile when you hear a coda that perfectly evokes Clare Torry’s dynamic performance on Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky.”)
Meanwhile, the opening “The Belly of Being” is an East-meets-West journey that’s positively jazz-like, its relaxed looseness refreshing. Too often these days, beats arrive too precisely and clinically. “The Times They Are A-Taming” acknowledges British folk while introducing us to the full force of Pedersen’s guitar prowess. His lead lines are filled with facility and ferocity, with spectacular solos and runs that don’t forsake melody; you can sing along with these passages as easily as with anything else on the album. “Falling” is its epic ballad, replete with solid alliteration and the requisite heavenly vocal harmonies.
As much as a prog fan may love long tracks, these tunes may wear out their welcome; a few pieces could be trimmed or would benefit from a turn toward the exotic or an abrupt tempo change. Then again, we’d miss some of the tender acoustic-under-electric moments of “Falling” and others.
Producer Rhys Marsh’s bass and pedal steel adds nice touches, as do drums contributed by Geir Anfinn Halland Johansen (Anfinnsaas). Vocals from Silje Leirvik and Kari Harneshaug are also pleasant spots, yet none of that elevates Time is Always Now from good to great. Still, it’s solidly enjoyable, enough to look forward to what holon has in store for us next.