Toronto-based electronic act Holy Fuck — Brian Borcherdt, Graham Walsh, Matt McQuaid and Matt Schultz — have developed a long-held reputation for playing by their own rules, never being overly concerned about chasing the limelight or after genre-based trends. They’re also known for employing the use of instruments and non-instruments including a 35mm film synchronizer, toy keyboards and toy phaser guns to achieve electronic-sounding effects without the use of laptops, programmed backing tracks, splicing and so on.
Earlier this year, I wrote about “Luxe,” the first bit of new material from the acclaimed Canadian electronic act since the release of 2017’s Bird Brains EP. And as you may recall, the single was born by their mutual desire to resist old and trusted methods of creating new material — primarily by experimenting live and on the stage. Centered around a pulsating, minimal synth loop, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, thumping kick drum, the expansive song, which clocks in at a little over six minutes can trace its origins back to a spontaneous encore jam at Luxembourg, Belgium. As the story goes, once they had the early elements of the track worked on in the studio, they sent it to to their good friend and casual musical mentor Kieran Hebden, best known as Four Tet, who picked the early version of “Luxe” as a standout. The Canadian quartet then invited Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor to contribute vocals. Taylor not only jumped at the opportunity but went to Jack White‘s Third Man Studio in Nashville to record his vocals on White’s 1947 Voice-O-Graph.
“Among more literal translations, ‘Luxe’ is the short form of Luxembourg – the city in which the nexus of the song was created,” the members of Holy Fuck explain in an extensive statement. “On this particular night, during soundcheck, we had a pulsing minimal synth loop we’d been tinkering around with. (We were listening to lots of TRAX Records stuff on that tour.) We decided that if the crowd demanded an encore we’d go for it. ‘Luxe’ was the result. Or – as it was then called on the live recorded MP3 – ‘Luxembourg Encore’. Once home from tour we took all the live demos back to the drawing board. We shared everything with our friend Kieran Hedben aka Four Tet. His always-intuitive advice was that he heard a great club track in his ‘very favorite thing here’: ‘Luxembourg Encore’”.
The next moment of discovery came when Graham suggested the band scrap Brian’s vocals and give it to Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. When we presented Alexis with the concept our reference notes to him, based around Brian’s temporary vocals, were ‘like an old sample you’d dig up off an old folk record… and approached more like a classic house track’. He responded, ‘We could try to record the vocal in a Voice O Graph booth (an obsolete 1940s coin operated phonograph booth) if we can access one…’. As far as we’re aware, there are only two in the world – one in Liverpool (that apparently doesn’t work anymore) and the other at Jack White’s Third Man studio in Nashville. And that is where Alexis sang ‘I’d like to scrap all of this and start over again.’ Fittingly, it was New Year’s Eve.”
“Luxe” also served as the first official single off Holy Fuck’s forthcoming fifth album Deleter. Slated for a January 17, 2020 release, the album’s material finds the acclaimed Canadian electronic act pushing their signature sound in a new and exciting direction — polyrhythmic and pleasure focused, the members of Holy Fuck manage to seamlessly mesh krautrock, deep house and motorik percussion. Thematically, the album reportedly explores what happens when humanity and technology coalesce into one big, semi-organic celebration of the joys of spontaneity, repetition and individuality. As the band puts it, “the robots are smarter than ever, and the algorithm knows more and more what we like as individuals, but we have to remind ourselves that there is music in the margins that can go missing and that that music is more important than ever.”
Clocking in at just under six and a half minutes, the expansive “Free Gloss” features plaintive and ethereal vocals from POND’s Nicholas Albrook and is centered around glistening synth arpeggios, atmospheric electronics, a sinuous bass line and a motorik groove. And much like it’s immediate predecessor, “Free Gloss” is a seamless synthesis of hypnotic and driving pulse, ethereal atmospherics and dance floor friendly thump.
Directed by Haoyan of America, the recently released video for “Free Gloss” is a trippy and wondrous synthesis virtual reality, video games and reality that’s pulled out of the home, on to the dance floor and back home. And throughout, the individual in all of their strangeness is celebrated.