This Film's Crap Let's Slash the Seats

Francis Jones considers the cinematic flourishes in David Holmes' debut

Promoter, producer, composer, remixer and DJ, a man of myriad talents, David Holmes, influence and stature in the local, national and international dance community is immense.

Even before the release of his debut album, dance auteur, Holmes was a pivotal mover in the local scene. In the mid to late 1990s he ran two hugely successful club nights, Sugar Sweet and Shake Ya Brain, in the Belfast Art College.

The impact of early release ‘DeNiro’ (as Dance Evangelists) and the subsequent slew of remixing work which came his way from Sabres of Paradise, St. Etienne and Therapy?, amongst others, would bring him to the attention of Go! Discs.

His 1995 debut for the label, This Film’s Crap Let’s Slash The Seats, stands as an absorbing, retro-futurist chronicle of Holmes career. The backward glance and commemoration of past experience, finds Holmes utilising dance norms of techno, house and breakbeat. However, this is merely the basic framework with the sounds Holmes conjures being amplified and distorted through a cinematic lens, the breadth of vision here pointing forward to his later work as a renowned soundtrack composer.

The album opens with the sound of darkly chiming bells, footsteps, a door slamming and then the sound of a pounding heartbeat. It makes for an ominous aural collage.

The track, ‘No Mans Land’, was reportedly inspired by In The Name Of The Father, the Daniel Day-Lewis film about the Guildford Four. Regardless, it sounds more like the score of a cold-war thriller, the jangling, hesitant synth and militaristic drums creating an atmosphere of all pervading paranoia.

With irresistible swish and electronic bleep framing an off-kilter Sci-Fi sample, 'Slash The Seats’, further emphasised the sweaty dread and feel of creeping unease. ‘Shake Ya Brain’ is a more straight-forward approximation of dance styles and provides suitably frenzied testimony to the famed club night.

The unremitting motion of ‘Got Fucked Up Along The Way’ creates a, close to lunatic, bastardisation of dance clichés. However, it is the Sarah Cracknell voiced collaboration, ‘Gone’, which, more than any other track, ensured the permanency of This Film’s Crap. Described by one reviewer as a ‘quasi-James Bond theme’, ‘Gone’ further accentuated the filmic quality of Holmes work. Immersing the singer’s voice and jazz ballad inflections in compelling, car-chase beats this was the sound of a latter-day Hitchcock thriller, painfully taut and suspenseful. Nor surprisingly the song would later be the subject of numerous remixes.

‘The Atom And You’ is a curious track whose ghost rhythms and graceful radiance construct an atmosphere that is at once menacing and unfathomable. Perhaps the weakest cut here is ‘Minus 61 in Detroit’. It is not a bad track by any means, but appears somewhat formulaic when compared to the rest of the material on the album. A straight-ahead dance stomper it is an, at times, dizzyingly enjoyable track, but lacks the deftness and gentle nuance that makes the rest of the record so engrossing.

The impatient bustle of ‘Inspired By Leyburn’ with its snagging guitar line courtesy of Steve Hillage recaptures the previously high standard. The closing ‘Coming Home To The Sun’ sees Cara Robinson recruited to provide an ethereal vocal that in its haunting divinity surpasses Gregorian chant.

Holmes would go on to achieve much more, creating records and soundtracks of consistent brilliance and originality, nonetheless his first long-player, This Film’s Crap Let’s Slash The Seats, remains an important and prodigious introduction to an outstanding talent.

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