Maniacs From The 4th Dimension –  Paul Holda Band (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Anyone who states that “ brown notes, off-beats and noise are my friends” is always going to be someone who will capture my attention. After all in a world of conformity and polish it is those sort of things that make music stand out from the background mediocrity and line-toeing. Maniacs From The 4th Dimension is a tricky beast, it lulls you into a false sense of security. Considering what the aforementioned phrase might seem to allude to, what madness and left-field thinking it might suggest, Till We Meet Again heads off down some pretty conventional musical routes. But by the time you stop and take stock of things a minute or so in you realise that the simple acoustic guitar lines and straight four -four beats have actually cocooned themselves in some pretty “out there” sonic trappings. Psychedelic grooves are laid down, squalling guitars paint Paisley patterns in the air, rumbling baselines add rock muscle and the whole rocks with a retro infused intensity. It sort of sneaks up on you.  And as a calling card or way to announce your intentions, it is perfect.

But in essence it really only acts as an introduction to one third of the album, just the first section which contains other wonderfully acid soaked instrumentals. The middle offerings of the album takes these same vibes and weave sampled spoken word through them and the fact that it has chosen to give a platform to the wit and wisdom of the likes of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Aldous Huxley, Kurt Vonnegut and Ken Kesey speaks volumes about where Paul Holda and his musical acolytes are coming from. It also makes me wonder if he has been sneaking into my house at night and going through my bookshelves.

The final slice adds Paul’s vocals to a collection of songs in the same vein and even throws in a couple of suitable covers. But even though there are three definite chapters, each is underpinned by a cohesive and virtuosic musical machine. One that tips its hat, probably some sort of purple Donny Cap, to a past, West Coast sound but one that also reminds us that time, musical time anyway, is cyclical. Charge headlong into the future and you find yourself surrounded by what has gone before you anyway.

The album is a cracker. Cosmic laces gentle but incendiary blues through hypnotic back beats and repetitions, Advice From Lawrence runs on a jaunty Steely Dan soul-blues motor-groove whilst the City Lights owner and poetic minor deity breaks out some street philosophy and The Good Garden plays with drama and anticipation.

Dip into this fulsome collection at any point and you find something new, fresh and original, which is an odd thing to say for music so clearly informed by 60’s psychedelia, hippy rock and cosmic blues. But this is a version of that era which never quite existed, instead this is a reimagining of such times but done so clearly aimed at a contemporary audience. They say if you remember the 60’s you weren’t really there, well now you have the answer. This is either a love letter to what people don’t remember from the first time around or a re-telling for those too young or to straight to have missed out in the first place. Either way it is a brilliant fusion of nostalgia, modern musical sensibilities and future potential. How cool is that?

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