Precambrian, Phanerozoic, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Cenozoic – anyone who has never heard of these terms has probably never listened to an album by The Ocean. The band collective led by Robin Staps, founder of the label Pelagic Records, has named some of their last albums after geological eras. With their tenth album the band has now reached the present of Earth’s history, the Holocene. This is divided into five stages, each of which lends its name to a song on the album: Subatlantic, Subboreal, Atlantic, Boreal, and Preboreal.
Trip Hop meets Post Metal
The transition to the present is naturally reflected in the music. While previous albums were based on the ideas of Robin Staps, the compositions for the eight songs on ‘Holocene’ are the work of synth-player Peter Voigtmann. This brings synthesizers, electronic beats and orchestral arrangements to the forefront. The guitar-driven outbursts make way for ambient song structures. A prime example is the opener of the B-side, which begins with clattering beats accompanied by the almost reverent vocals of Loïc Rossetti, only to temporarily disappear into furious post-metal structures. While listening to the album it often reminded me more of trip hop than prog or post metal. Massive Attack instead of Opeth. The magnificent track “Unconformities” featuring Karin Park (more on that below) undeniably evokes comparisons to Portishead.
Vinyl boxset to fully enjoy the whole album
The ideas and sound designs by Voigtmann were released under the pseudonym SHRVL as an album titled “Limbus” – essentially the sister album to ‘Holocene.’ It’s very exciting to listen to this album, which has then been “oceanized” by Robin Staps, as he calls it. If the digital consumption of the album is not enough for you and you want to enjoy the album on vinyl, you have no choice but to purchase the vinyl box set of ‘Holocene,’ which includes the LP by SHRVL.
There is another good reason to purchase the vinyl box set. After unpacking the special edition LP, I was initially surprised by the tracklist on the back. It was missing a song, namely the aforementioned collaboration with Karin Park called “Unconformities” – one of my personal highlights of the album. Unfortunately the song is only available digitally on Spotify, Bandcamp or similar platforms and on a 10″ vinyl as part of the aforementioned box set. It also includes an instrumental version on the B-side. A bit unfortunate, in my opinion, because I would have loved to purchase a special edition featuring the song without having to buy a box set for a three-figure sum. However, die-hard fans of the band will hardly be able to bypass the vinyl box set for the complete enjoyment of the album. At least they can be sure to add another masterpiece by The Ocean to their record collection.
The contents of the vinyl box set:
the vocal version of the ‚Holocene‘ album,
the instrumental version of the ‚Holocene‘ album,
synth player Peter Voigtmann’s solo album under the moniker SHRVL which offers an intriguing alternate view on some of the musical ideas of the Holocene main album,
an extra 10“ vinyl EP containing a collaboration with Karin Park, which is part of the digital album but is NOT on any of the standalone vinyl versions.
Vinyl of the week in different colors plus an instrumental version
As always with vinyl releases by Pelagic Records it’s not that easy to keep track of all the different colored editions. Next to the boxset you could choose from four different vinyl colors. The only limited edition that is still available though is the “Guy Debord edition” (500 copies), all other colors are sold out. If you don’t care about the color of a vinyl you can still buy the black edition.
Additionally you can purchase the instrumental vinyl edition of ‘Holocene’. For some reason the instrumentals are only available at Pelagic Records as part of the vinyl boxset and not a standalone edition. But it should be available at your local record store – on black, liquid color or transparent blue vinyl.