Exposé Online banner

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

by Peter Thelen, 1995-07-01:

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 Mike Grimes, 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 Dan Casey, 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.


Filed under: New releases , Issue 7 , 1995 releases

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

More info

Latest news

2017-11-16
Celebrate 10 Years of Fruits de Mer – As a special celebration for a decade of cool vinyl releases, our friends at Fruits de Mer records have prepared a limited edition reissue of an album by the first band ever to appear on the label: Schizo Fun Addict. The band is known for unusual release strag » Read more

2017-11-02
Mega Dodo Presents New Charity Album – Our friends at Mega Dodo have put together a lovely compilation of their artists performing new arrangements of nursery rhymes, and all the profits from sales of the album will benefit Save the Children. It features a number of artists we've covered. » Read more

2017-10-18
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Michael P. Dawson - Brandnewbug Concertos – An interesting album indeed. Dawson is a Bay Area composer who originally released an earlier version of this (subtitled "Papa's Got a Brand New Bug") on cassette at the end of 1994....  (1996) » Read more

Günter Schickert - Somnambul – This is one of Musique Intemporelle's Rainbow series, CDs released with a track of CD ROM on each one. I haven't seen the CD ROM portion of this so I can't comment, but the rest of the CD...  (1996) » Read more

Cos - Viva Boma – Here we have Musea’s reissue of Cos’ second album, recorded in 1976. In addition to the original album Musea included four bonus tracks recorded in Cos’ rehearsal room on a 4-track...  (1997) » Read more

Sorten Muld - Mark II – Sorten Muld exist in the same milieu as Hedningarna, Garmarna, and Afro Celt Sound System, bringing modern sounds and techniques to traditional music, in this case that of Denmark. They are masters of...  (2000) » Read more

Between Interval - The Edge of a Fairytale – It’s been a few years since 2006’s Autumn Continent, but this latest release – his fourth altogether – is well worth the wait. Between Interval is the creative brainchild of...  (2010) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues