There’s a lack of playfulness that infused Holy Fuck’s earlier work.
Holy Fuck have long used the vocabulary of rock music to speak the language of electronic music, bending and molding their sound into a charming, low-rent version of the Chemical Brothers. It’s a fun experiment that infused a generally slick genre with some much welcome rawness. With Deleter however, Holy Fuck have stripped away much of that organic sound in service of a clean, streamlined approach that robs the music of its vitality.
Which isn’t to say that Deleter is a BAD album; it’s actually… FINE. Holy Fuck have made a dark and danceable album in the same vein as Caribou’s last couple of records and that’s… FINE. In the process, Holy Fuck have burnished a few of their strengths while over-polishing others. The end result is a batch of songs that strive for something big while simultaneously stripping the songs of their edge, like they’ve taken themselves a little too seriously.
The album kicks off with “Luxe,” a slow burning dance track with somnambulant vocals from Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. It’s dark and pulsing with moaning synths, a repeated lyric about starting over and a climax scientifically engineered to set a dark, artificially smoky venue bouncing ecstatically. It’s a great way to start the album and “Luxe” hints at the power the songs might have in a live setting. Still, the slickness feels a little hollow on record. Previous Holy Fuck albums have certainly managed to find a happier medium between the two.
Occasionally, Holy Fuck manage to really knock it out of the park as on album highlight “Free Gloss.” Its slightly elevated chillwave vibe and vocals from a former member of Tame Impala (Nicholas Allbrook) evoke the cutting edge of 2012, but it’s a guaranteed dance floor filler with stuttering synths, a bleary melody and bouncing bass, while “Moment” adds some welcome guitar and an impish ‘80s TV theme song vibe. “Near Mint” takes a krautrock base and adds a wonderfully evocative vocal line that pushes the song from referential to genuinely revelatory. It’s a real stunner and perfectly placed at the apex of the album. From here, the album stumbles to a close, the final three tracks gliding by with little to say.
Holy Fuck are clearly interested in moving on to the next phase of their sound, something that’s bigger and more “mature.” As a result, there’s a lack of playfulness that infused their earlier work, ultimately leaving Deleter to feel a little undercooked.