Review: The Holocene – Yūrei (Lugubrious Audio, May 11)

As a huge fan of The Holocene’s (PJ Hamlin) previous tape on Lugubrious Audio, Dead:Unearthed, it was tremendously exciting to see that the U. K. based sample virtuoso had another release. Thankfully, Yūrei has far surpassed expectations, and cements Hamlin as a modern titan of audio collage. The tape is a love letter to traditional Japanese ghost stories, and draws its source material from horror film VHS tapes and various vinyl records from the 70’s and 80’s. The result is a lush, hypnagogic opus full of dusty percussion clips, mysterious spoken word samples, and the warm crackles of the decaying media from which it was all lifted. Yūrei certainly retains much of the horror evocations present in the original material, but the fear it elicits is comforting; more like the nervous excitement one gets from hearing scary stories around a campfire rather than sheer visceral terror. And there’s also an ambiguity in atmosphere, a phenomenon common among albums with such sample-based methodology, but here it is such a mesmerizing companion to Hamlin’s cryptic sonic mishmashes. Yūrei succeeds in embodying both the allure and the danger of the supernatural, and is somehow pretty catchy along the way. Plus it’s capped off by one of the sweetest, most sublime closing tracks I’ve heard all year.