First look: Holy Water

Hometown: Austin, TX
Album: Self-titled, out February 3rd via The Flenser

RIYL: Fairy Tales. Gut Feelings. Wells.

One of the most surprising aspects of experimental music is how often it can actually be catchy. I don’t mean that it’s not challenging or bringing ideas totally new to the table; however, while even those of us who grew up loving all things weird, sometimes we want art to be pleasing, you know? Like the song of the Pied Piper, lulling us out from our slumber into a new not-creepy-at-all path. Austin’s Holy Water exemplify the merging of experimental and fun, drawing from a creative well that is clearly spring-fed and magical. By my count, we have (deep breath) post-punk, industrial, doom, gothic, post-rock, prog, black metal and shoegaze all represented on this debut record, though descriptors don’t quite tell the whole story. This is beautifully disarming music, the kind that stirs the soul while confusing your brain. In other words, for seekers of catchy weirdness, this is the good stuff, man.

This project came about through an extensive creativity exercise called Compost Turn, where band mastermind Jasper den Hartigh put out 7 releases from friends and himself as part of the process. Creating something on your own after working with others is always awesome, but it can feel tough to really dig deep into the well of what you want versus what you sense others want. He shares how going through all that birthed Holy Water:

“Compost Turn helped me work through and let go of a bunch of loose ideas, in order to start with a fresh slate, as well as build inspiration through the releases of some close friends. It was the perfect culling, confidence builder, and practice for Holy Water.

Holy Water itself is a reference to the boundless creativity that’s available to everyone, as long as you learn to dig into that well. My goal for the project is to make music that feels authentic, is therapeutic, and isn’t scared of genre boundaries, but rather plays with them.”

“The original intent,” he continues, “was to make an album absolutely following the gut, and using trust in myself as well as lessons learned over the years to shape the outcome. I trusted that, due to the different sorts of bands we’ve participated in over the years, it would be a potent mix of influences. I like to joke that, in order to triangulate where we ended up, the three big influences I hear in the final product are Depeche Mode, Darkthrone, and Duster. The collaborators had a lot to do with shaping the sound of this record. They caught me off guard with new ideas during recording.”

Thematically, the record plays like a modern retelling of European fairy tales, where these larger than life characters remind us of what makes us human, while also serving as a reminder of the power of a damn good story. It’s both massive in scope and clearly personal. What did you want to talk about with this record?

“The album takes Dutch fairy tales,” he answers, “from a translated collection by William Griffis and uses those to help build sort of a subplot. I picked the Dutch stories, due to being Dutch myself. I suspect the Griffis stories are quite different from the originals, and I wanted to add a further degree of retelling to the stories. I wanted to use them as a back-drop to tell a more personal story, as well as a cautionary tale about humanity. For example, there’s a story that plays out over the course of a few songs on the album about merpeople who are dammed into a small body of water and caught as they try to escape, to be stuffed, and mounted for all the people to make a spectacle of.”

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