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Reviews

Biota — Object Holder
(ReR Megacorp BCD4, 1995, CD)

Object Holder Cover art

I must admit up front that Biota has been around a lot longer than I have been tuned in to their music. My introduction, less than two years ago, was an early LP titled Horde by the Mnemonists (same group really, but different name). In the time since, I've been gathering up whatever Biota/ Mnemonists artifacts I could find, including recent discs like Tumble. Their style could be described as a sonic collage of ideas residing along the interface where music meets art. Melodic threads fade in and out, superimposed on found sounds and bits and pieces of other musical fragments that seem lost, floating in the void of space. Every moment is part of a larger exploration that ultimately becomes the whole album. Biota's music bears little resemblance to rock, or to any other genre of music for that matter... for the most part this is out there... way out there on it's own. Yet it's a pleasant and cerebral experience, not harsh or abrasive. Instrumentation varies throughout: guitars, pianos, xylophones, woodwinds, primitive organs and synthesizers are all present here - and much more, all processed, treated and mixed with other samples and sounds. But this album is very different than its predecessors due to one very distinct new element. Vocals. Contributing vocalist on many of the tracks is none other than Suzanne Lewis of Thinking Plague and Hail fame. It's the vocals, more than anything else that offers new accessibility to the otherwise abstract music of Biota. Chris Cutler also makes several appearances on the album, even contributing lyrics on a couple tracks. I'm sure some of the old fans might not be charmed by the new direction the band has taken, but in fact the result is very tasty and every bit as interesting as before. For the newcomer who's been wondering what Biota was all about, this may be a good place to get on board.

by Peter Thelen, Published 1995-07-01


A project over two years in the making, this effort includes a huge number of musicians on 24 tracks, the most notable names being RIO staple Chris Cutler (percussion, electronics) and Susanne Lewis of 5uu's/U Totem (vocals). While lyrics only appear on about 25% of the cuts, they are of the familiar avant garde poetic styling (a la 5uu's): eclectic, pompous, and egotistical with a lot of implicit hidden meaning that ultimately pans out to be rather insignificant. Overall, this musical project is extremely ambitious and very experimental. The 24 tracks flow together naturally and consistently with a well-defined theme or mood driving each one. The opener, "Bumpreader," is a chaos of many, many instruments going off over a simple laid-back percussion groove. Many of the sounds and instruments heard here (and indeed on the whole album) are foreign and difficult to identify, mainly composed of guitars and various other plucked and stringed instruments. These are generally used as the focal point of most of the tracks, and thankfully they are the most interesting timbrally as well. In general, Object Holder has an acoustic/ethnic feel to it, but without being as simple as to fall under the traditional stereotypes of that realm. Indeed, it transcends it and offers something very new and original – not heavy in style, but dense and alternating between chaotic and organized. Melodically, there is little to hold on to, but texturally Biota has achieved a synergy unlike much of what has gone before it. Marginally recommended to hard-core RIO experimental fans and those interested in the assimilation of unfamiliar and ethnic sounds.

by Dan Casey, Published 1995-07-01


If you're looking for some music that's "out there," then Biota may be just the album for you. With a large line up that includes Chris Cutler of Henry Cow fame, Biota encompasses a plethora a musical styles. Some aspects of their compositions remind me of early Henry Cow works, while other parts recall a more ambient feel similar to that of guitarist David Torn, or maybe even Robert Fripp's Frippertronics. Overall, the album is quite atmospheric and spacey, with gobs of effects processing and even more stereo imaging. On a lot of tracks, you can't really tell who or what is making the noise. You know something is responsible for those frequencies, but it could be anything. Only Biota knows. For the most part, the compositions have an ambient, noisy drone backdrop with an amazingly clean guitar on top. Occasionally, this accordion comes in playing sea shanty riffs (oom-pa-pa, etc.), and there are more ethnic instruments used than I can count. Imagine a song with clean Stratocaster guitar, Arabic reed, accordion, crazy lyrics, and a percussive drone to boot – all playing an experimental, ambient, Celtic, Arabic sea shanty. There you have it – Biota. "This Ridge" is has a nice piano intro. Later tracks feature smooth flugel horn, hurdy gurdy, kitchen sink. Vocalist Susanne Lewis, who recently guested on the 5uu's latest album, appears on about a third of the tracks, and adds yet another strange element to the songs with lyrics that can only be described as weird. For those who like variety, these notes could be for you.

by Mike Grimes, Published 1995-07-01


Filed under: New releases, Issue 7, 1995 releases

Related artist(s): Biota / Mnemonists , Chris Cutler, Susanne Lewis, C.W. Vrtacek (Charles O'Meara)

 

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