Holy Roman is a record label that specialises in outsider R&B, blank funk, urban noise and modern classical music. Their most recent release is Speaking in Snake Tongue by BLKLN, a Queens-based musician who has previously worked with Jon Hassell, John Zorn, and Henry Kaiser among others.
To say that this release is pretty special is a bit of an understatement.
It sits coiled up waiting for the opportunity to strike within the perimeter defined by the funky modality of NYC post-punk, the abrasive modality of NYC post-punk, the life-affirming modality of NYC post-punk, the modern modality of abstractedly emotional ectoplasmic soul, and some as yet unnamed modality of modern gothic musick that sounds as if, having replaced the Joker in the Killing Joke, Scott Walker had decided to melt Commissioner Gordon’s cortex with an organ onslaught which is pure satanic terror.
Having laid down some reference points, we can get on with the much more important business of gazing into the void they bound to fathom what lurks inside, and try to convey it to you.
It is not so easy though. BLKLN’s music does not lend itself to the narrative genres we major on here (notwithstanding the comic-book comparison above). Its martial kinetics, complex textures, and the sense of disorientation it induces as it splices ideas, techniques and sounds under its hood might be more aptly described with exotic mathematics, or models for the morphogenesis of alien predators.
We are not experts in those disciplines, so we will simply say that we sense BLKLN’s Speaking in Snake Tongue like some potent force shadowboxing in the shadows ahead of us, evil, jazzy and furiously alive.
We overcome our fear and advance. Maybe it will strike us down but we don’t care, getting closer is the only way we’ll have a chance to know.
BLKLN -Kemistry & storm
We couldn’t offer you a more conclusive example of the risk-reward quandary we find ourselves in than the track above, Kemistry and Storm, a fitting tribute to the legendary Jungle DJ duo who introduced Goldie to hardcore drum’n’bass in the 1990s, also a tribute to the memory of Kemistry, who died way too young in a freak car accident in 1999.
Pick up the album from Holy Roman’s website.
As a bonus, here you have the incredible Doc Scott remix of Goldie’s own tribute to Kemistry. It’s unbelievable that this came out 20 years ago, because it truly sounds like a future.
Goldie – Kemistry (Doc Scott Remix)
[BLKLN photography above by Grant Willing, 2014; Kemistry photo by Eddie Otchere]