Saturnian by Holmes + atten Ash - Blackford Hill [BH010] FLAC download included with physical items


A 13 track ambient album (39m 59s) — released October 28th 2022 on Blackford Hill

The moons of Saturn are the inspiration for this brooding, often soaring and searching odyssey of dark electronica.

The second largest planet in the solar system after Jupiter, and the sixth planet from the sun, Saturn is orbited by 53 confirmed moons, with another 29 that are unnamed and still being studied.

Saturnian is a suite of thirteen choral tracks taking their names from some of Saturn's known moons; Dione, Daphnis, Phoebe, Prometheus, Rhea, Janus, Titan, Enceladus, Tethys, Telesto, Mimas, Hyperion and Iapetus, all named after figures from Greek and Roman mythology, each loaded with their own turbulent back stories. It is the debut release by Holmes + atten Ash, written, recorded and produced remotely in Edinburgh and Bristol by the duo Simon Holmes and Paul Nash.

Their project began during the 2020 lockdown. For Simon, time was spent exploring the Pentland Hills south of Edinburgh. For Paul, the Mendip Hills, south of Bristol. Both would experience the darker side of our human impact on the environment. Simon observed the wilderness as a wasteland, finding discarded, rusting metal littering the Pentland Hills while Paul witnessed the decimation of the ancient woodland of the Mendips' King's Wood due to the destructive tree fungus ash dieback.

These field trips fuelled a desire to navigate not just the landscape, but the duo's emotional place within it. Their collaboration led to a concept album that explores the outer reaches of the solar system, while simultaneously grounding them in a specific place. Looking inwards as much as outwards, theycreated soundscapes based on deeply imagined and felt connections to their surroundings.

After Simon had created a choral piece to accompany Luke Jerram's enormous, world touring artwork Museum of the Moon, Saturnian was a natural progression. When Simon was sent an initial score for the ethereal track Enceladus, composed by Paul in Bristol, he added choral arrangements recorded in Edinburgh. Their shimmering, tense opus continued to evolve from there. Just as the discarded bed springs and abandoned car parts that Simon stumbled upon in the Pentland Hills seemed to him at once "horrible but also oddly beautiful", Saturnian melds together melancholy and levity, fusing moments of dark angst with a celestial calm.

Opening with the glistening, hopeful brightness of Dione, increasingly urgent rhythms give way to digital, otherworldly calls from what might be rainforest creatures chirping into life with robotic squawks and delicate keyboard lines on Phoebe, followed by slowed down, monastic song on Rhea. Tethys is a hypnotic blur of synthesiser and soft chanting, while Rhea is a mysterious, echoing chasm, lifted by melodic, gentle male vocals. Janus has a glowing, effervescent energy, swiftly followed by a sense of tension on Titan, which throbs with driving percussive unease.

The album artwork is a pencil drawing created by Edinburgh artist Simon Kirby. It was made by a robot drawing machine, using custom algorithms that bring to life recordings of the sound of magnetic waves near Saturn's icy moon, Enceladus. The lines in the centre of the drawing are distorted by sound captured by the Cassini spacecraft which studied Saturn for over a decade.

Much like Saturn and its frozen, rocky moons, this debut album from Holmes + atten Ash is mysterious and beguiling, with a hint of foreboding in the depths of its powerful beauty and epic scale.

Ruminative and thought-provoking. - Electronic Sound

The soft background textures and gently unfolding melodies of ‘Daphnis’ carry an inquisitiveness and beguiling sense of vast, unknowable mystery. - Electronic Sound

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