7 Track, LP (2012, R.I.P. Society)
Related: Holy Balm.
A friend describes the music of Holy Balm as “wounce”. Claiming it's a compound of “wobble” and “bounce”. She says it's a sound that makes her dance. Whether Holy Balm are spearheading a new genre in dance music or not, their take on big, loose and fat beats mixed with live percussion is most definitely fun. And, yes, a little wobbly.
The Sydney three-piece – Anna John, Jonathan Hochman and Emma Ramsay – have established themselves as an innovative and interesting dance band among the city's art and warehouse fringe, but save for the odd tape, their recorded output has been sparse. That all changes with the release of their debut album featuring more of the “wounce” that takes its cues from the New York post-disco scene of the early-’80s (particularly acts such as Konk and Liquid Liquid). The album kicks off with a cover of another New York art band, Y Pants, and a fist-in-the-air-pumping version of their 'Favourite Sweater'. The song has been a live favourite for a while, setting the tone for an album based largely on synth and house-influenced beats.
With members active in other Sydney acts (Raw Prawn, Convent and Four Door), Holy Balm approach music with an open mind. And while they lean heavily on rhythm, this is more than just dance music for the indie set. The beats on 'Losing Control' and 'Holy Balm Theme' positively drip with dance-floor sweat. It's all fluoro head bands, Reebok boxing boots and sloppy dancing.
Working with Jon Hunter from the Holy Soul to record and mix the album, the sound here is less claustrophobic and murky as I remember seeming them live. (But maybe that had more to do with my “murky” state of mind at the time?) 'Phone Song' delves into some darker territory, with bleeps and sirens, before slowing down to some almost new-soul vocals. 'Take It' has Ramsay's warm and breathy vocals backed by a clinical rhythmic beat.
They save the best to last. The eight-and-a-half-minute 'One and Only' opens with Ramsay's empyrean vocals, “Somedays you need a favour/Somedays then nothing at all”, over a bubbling beat. Spacey echo keyboards and whip-like drum cracks come in later to help transform you to the Mudd Club circa 1982.
by Tim Scott