Voices From the Eccentriphon

James Holcroft

James Holcroft’s new album after his much acclaimed Musicians of Dune goes into entirely new territory, staying closer to planet Earth this time. SOMA Labs Music is proud to present to you Voices from the Eccentriphon.

Voices can hurt, voices can heal. Voices can lift the spirit gloriously into the heavens or cast it down into darkness and despair. Voices can warn. Voices can reassure. Voices can convey meaning or endlessly chatter, saying nothing. Everyone and everything has a voice, unique and its very own. Insights to contribute, for those willing to listen.
James Holcroft’s new album after his much acclaimed Musicians of Dune goes into entirely new territory, staying closer to planet Earth this time. SOMA Labs Music is proud to present to you Voices from the Eccentriphon.

Voices can hurt, voices can heal. Voices can lift the spirit gloriously into the heavens or cast it down into darkness and despair. Voices can warn. Voices can reassure. Voices can convey meaning or endlessly chatter, saying nothing. Everyone and everything has a voice, unique and its very own. Insights to contribute, for those willing to listen.
I have learned so much from my previous projects and wanted to do a vocal album, but a vocal album where not a word is sung: To convey messages with voice but still be lyrical, even if one omits lyrics by design. The structure in which to paint, to indulge and surround myself with my favorite things, my favorite sounds. To give my eccentric collection a unified voice while giving its components chances to speak in their own unique ways. Resonance or dissonance is up to the listener. It is foremost an electronic album but with old friends at hand, acoustic guitars and mandolins, combined with modular synthesis, and access to many of Soma’s strange and extraordinary instruments. Unique voices talk to you on every track. I bathe the music in my Trons, (Memo and Mello), and what has become my own traditional instrument, my trusted, old Roland GR-300 guitar synthesizer. Over 40 years on hand, it is my personal voice, much like the Soma Pipe is truly an extension of my spirit. Andy Summers called it Himalayan Sheets of sound. It is present throughout the journey, secret or otherwise.  The journey is in itself a compulsion, a need, but it is fun and rewarding, and good for the spirit. To emote and be set free. To speak and be heard, in the universal language of music.”

James Holcroft

Release date: 22.04.2024

Label: SOMA Labs Music

Artwork: Kiyán

Press release: James Holcroft, Thomas Lundberg, Regina Volkova

SOMA Lab gear used on album:
The SOMA PULSAR-23 provides the bulk of the rhythm and percussion for this project. It is indeed a polymorphic entity capable of all the sounds of a larger more complex modular setup, its shape shifting augmented by filtering (HPF and LPF) to fit in the mix, to tame its inherent large sonic footprint. I am quite proud of all the different sounds and textures I created that are integral to the pulse and momentum of the songs. A lovely instrument.

You can’t have voices without the Soma PIPE. If there is a device for channelling the soul, this is it. I am connected to this instrument which in turn connects me with the music created in a very personal way. The sounds are the breath of life itself as it hovers about, meandering through the mixes to make my presence known. My very own voice. Right there in hand on the cover!

The “Gregorian Hurdy Gurdy” of track 1 and the “Murder of Crows Concertina” of track 9 are the late appearance of the Soma Enner in the project. When I first saw and heard it, I knew it was for me. A true eccentric addition to my agglomeration of the weird and wonderful: the Eccentriphon, my conglomerate electronic musical instrument. The ENNER also acts as a processor for the Pulsar, allowing it to move about in the stereo field and live and breath through filtering and addition of delay. Putting the pulsar through the enner’s external input allows it to function as a pseudo-Kaoss pad from the dawn of synthesis. Like all my Somas, so much more exploration is required as it will provide inspiration for many projects to come.

Track 5 is a definite SOMA ETHER fest as a winter recording session provided most of the sample fodder: sounds that can only be found using this device, along with using the electromagnetic fields of my Eccentriphon itself to underline and augment the concept of the track along with providing its own bizarre musicality.
The SOMA LYRA-8 and ROAT are both used more subtly on this project, sparser and less upfront but there nonetheless. The Lyra may be unrecognizable as I put it through vocal formants and the like, if you hear spacey choirs, it is more than likely the Lyra (or even a Bastl Kastle or even a Tubbatec Wired Heart touch synth). My pedal tones tend to sing. The ROAT is a different beast entirely, adept at lots of transition synthetic blips and bloops. In the old days, Tangerine Dream toured with mellotron tapes filled with lots of exotic sounds for interludes, punctuation and synthetic freakiness. Sounds that were too complex to produce live, made by modulars, synthi and the like.

The ROAT is a very capable sound machine for this task as one can fill a sampler with its sounds for later use as sprinkles, or as I call them; blinkies and floaties. The stuff that makes the listener turn their head and say “what was that?!”. The ROAT has future use too as a rhythm machine. What initially attracted me to it was it’s almost ring like cross modulations when used with its internal sequencer. The quality was very much like the odd lo fi digital eurorack modules (now discontinued) of Moffenzeef which always intrigued me. The fact that the ROAT was super affordable sweetened the deal.
About the songs:
1.Of Ancient Futures Past
So many voices, so many messages, so many speaking out, wanting to be heard. Some only perceive dissonance, a compulsion to extinguish the cacophony. They need to hear only their song, to have their voice heard above all others. They add to their choir at the expense of the individuality of the voices that join in the chorus. Choirs are powerful things, many voices unified in purpose and message. Each choir has a conductor with a different repertoire, a different agenda. One has to step back and enjoy the concert as a whole, to appreciate all the various groups on the bill and take away the best of what each has to offer.
To rise above the ingrained need for conformity, the compulsion to fill spaces with the like and the familiar at the expense of the opposite. Diversity is the key to enlightened, and maybe even continued, existence. One can break the seemingly endless cycle, learn with mouth closed and ears open.

The opening track is indeed the overture to the concept of the project. A statement rather than a soundtrack. Many voices. Enlightenment turns quickly to warning to those with pomposity as to perceived importance of their own voice, to diversity, to the innocence of the natural, without arrogance or agenda. The chorus of voices is as rich and contrasting as the instrumentation.
2.The Spirit Song
A simple celebration of voice, emphasizing the diversity and spirit of man. If there is a single    for this project, this is it. It is the distillation of its concept and intent, a folk song looking to the future as well as the past. Continuity. Acoustic guitar and fretless bass underscored with electronics.
Technology walks hand in hand with man’s voice. It augments, amplifies and opens up avenues to voids previously out of reach. It records, transmits and receives, even over long distances. It grows with the same evolution, from simple to complex. It has reached the threshold where, for good or bad, it has developed a voice of its very own. What it has to say in its own right, only time will tell. 

My Eccentriphon speaks. Retrofuture stylings and equipment reminiscent of circa. mid to late 70’s Tangerine Dream. A major influence on my work, there are many homages and easter eggs to the trio in this project.
Having a smaller choir does not diminish its beauty, having less voices does not derogate the message. Everyone has a voice and has something to say, something to contribute. Different voices added to the larger chorus can only add to its richness. Even a solo voice should not be trivialized or even dismissed, as it can fill a hall just the same, with impact, and meaning.
A companion piece to track 2.  The voices exist within the duality of the two extremes of time, represented by forward thinking electronics and the traditions of folk instruments like mandolin and violin. Of course, one can listen to the song and be present in the now.
My Search for Extraterrestrial Music had me exploring old rusting metal structures on a cold February day 3 years ago with my own personal radio telescope in hand (a Soma Ether attached to a Zoom recorder and headphones). I was inspired by pics of a similar “expedition” seen on Soma’s Facebook page showing the Ether being used to pick up signals from objects on the slopes of some exotic, tropical volcano. I was amazed at the terrestrial origins of my recordings and how very “human” they were. Even space itself has to be filled by human compulsion, the empty air alive with transmissions and fields of energy. Synthetic, man-made. Even the visual end of the electromagnetic spectrum, light itself to fill the darkness, the abhorred vacuum, light that obscures the stars above much like the interference in trying to find my music from beyond. This “song” is about man’s inherent need to fill the air itself with his essence, his voice. Extraterrestrial, no, very much earthbound in origin.

My ETHER textures are underlined with the literal flow of radio: 2 transistor radios on 2 different talk radio channels (a choice of that jam, or the dual commentary from a playoff hockey game, both had some nice serendipity and rhythms) gated through switches on the PULSAR-23, passed through a Wingie 2 overtone generator into separate channels on an Enjoy Electronics godfather. The overtones were mixed in and out giving an almost piano like effect. The chatter out of any context becomes a human drum machine with words and syllables pulsed into nonverbal musical textures, the original meaning, if any, transformed into…music?. Some random switch to a classical song provides the punch that ends the song. Luck of the Draw, it just happened and I stopped the beat just right to say “that’s a keeper!”
6.HikerBoreal 1 
From the awkward silences of conversation to the openness of town squares, to the very airwaves themselves, man has the incessant need to fill the emptiness, to order the order-less and label the indeterminate. It is undeniable human nature as the simple irrecoverably transforms into the more complex. The natural voices shrinking in response, becoming less with the human more. But can one judge evolution, the pinnacle of man?

There is still emptiness on earth, untouched, where one can hear voices of a different sort, or revel in the true silence, the absence of man. The Boreal forests or Taiga represent the unfilled, the open, the untouched. Too rugged, too impenetrable and not desirable for human habitation or consumption, for now. Merely a seemingly endless backdrop to drive through or past while in transit to the next conglomerate of voices. The Taiga speaks though, with choirs all its own.

This is a guitar song although not apparent as such: my guitar is sustained through an EHX Superego plus controlling a Mel9 pedal (strings and flute) with some real tron overdubs but the chordal structure is very much based on my guitar repertoire.
7.Shaman Says 
So many voices, each wanting to be heard, each wanting to exist in the void, to have a legacy. There is balance though, insight and meaning for those who are willing to listen, to silence their own voice momentarily and hear what others have to say. Voices can teach.
This is another guitar synthesizer composition utilizing EHX C9, B9 and Mel9 pedals against synthetic rhythm.
8.HikerBoreal 2 
The edge of civilization, a walk on by the abyss. Man likes to spend as little time as possible in or near emptiness. Silence is almost deafening, foreboding, a reminder of insignificance. The unfilled, unfulfilling. The Boreal is in complete contrast to the reassurances of the communal voices, the lack thereof brings uneasiness, even dread. But there is great beauty in the void. Even nothingness can have meaning, silence rising above the incessant chatter. Boundaries.
12 string acoustic, pulsar and pipe and one must include those glorious Mellotron choirs if one is talking voices!
One cannot define clutter without emptiness. The division between civilization and the great beyond. The muffling of natural voices, the planet’s own requiem, a lament getting harder and harder to hear, drowned out by the cacophony of progress. Pressing against the septentrion, the unfilled north. There are those who speak for it though, those with unique insights, with a long history within, succinct and content within the wilderness. Other voices to be heard and heeded.
The violin lament brings the anger of the crows to draw attention to voices of the north, there is still anger and a sense of desperation as the tendrils of technology weave themselves into the natural landscape.
10.Borealis Suite
There can still be balance, resolution and hope. To listen as well as speak. To think rather than say. To perceive continuums rather than boundaries. To live contently among the voids of the world, and resist the urge to fill them. There are voices that revel in their emptiness, they speak against the tide but with a wisdom of the ages. Voices can also heal the world.

The closing track is a celebration rather than a warning as we do have the potential to act together as a unified voice if we can communicate true self awareness balanced with a sense of global community, ……….    providing we leave space, to listen.