reviewed by Michael Thomas
Holgans are dead. Well, Holgans as a whole are very much alive; rather, this EP is celebrating a particular iteration of the band. Like a monument or perhaps a bit of time-traveling, Holgans are Dead is a celebration of the past, enjoyed in the present, with a sound that is very much in the future.
Sometimes marketing copy is spot on, and Holgans are described as “swirling pop rocks in the nature-drone served lush and spellbound, oozing with serene depth and texture.” They’re an ever-shifting, unpredictable entity. In some ways, their ethos is akin to that of fellow Calgarians Ghostkeeper; Shane Ghostkeeper and Ryan Bourne represent the more chaotic half of the vocal duo, while Sarah Houle and Kiarra Albina represent the more structured and eerie side of the coin.
In fact, Holgans can almost be split into thirds; two songs feature Bourne’s noisy, textured psych-rock; Albina’s two songs start quietly but unexpectedly burst with sound later; the final two songs are instrumental journeys through aggressive rock. Combined, it’s a powerhouse.
With a name like “Luvdrugz,” you could almost expect the swirling haze of synths and guitars as Bourne sings of chemtrails and phosphorous. As it progresses there’s an instrumental break that gets a lot heavier, dropping the synths away for a bit; but then those synths come back behind the louder guitar for a shattering ending. “Running Colour” relaxes a bit, an homage to the psychedelic music of the 60s, but bears a lot of the DNA of “Luvdrugz.”
Albina’s two songs hit hard thanks to their direct contrast to Bourne’s. “Seagreen Way” immediately follows the tempest of “Luvdrugz,” starting very grounded with Albina’s drawn-out vocals and funereal keys. It sounds like it could be a gloomy, depressing number until it isn’t. Out of nowhere, a buoyant backing beat pops up and suddenly it’s groovy. “Winterling” begins quietly as well, slipping between these moments of levity with something a lot more brash.
The instrumental songs are unrelenting; “Bleak Jams” reminded me a lot of Chad VanGaalen’s “Viking Rainbows” (which makes sense, considering Bourne plays in his backup band) with its crunchy guitar, while “Pynk Slyme” takes its time as is strolls through synth and sludge.
Though these Holgans are dead, “Holgans II” lives on with Ryan Bourne. If this new lineup can retain the same unpredictability heard here, Holgans will be immortal.
Top Tracks: “Luvdrugz”; “Seagreen Way”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)