Bristol gets its share of Free Ass as Holmes' crew kick through their eccletically luscious genre-trashing soundscapes. Dance, hip hop, soul, jazz, funkadelic, all with Holmes on decks at the helm.
[l-zone1]Free Association. The bringing to consciousness of unconscious processes. Also: the astonishingly eclectic, painfully hip, and rather brilliant live project from David Holmes.
Urbane music guru Holmes, DJ and producer, renowned for his soundtracks to films such as Ocean’s Eleven, and his own solo albums such as ‘Bow Down To The Exit Sign’, has finally found an ace way to bring his varied and wonderful visions to the masses. A ‘proper’ live band.
[r-zone2]Despite his status, Holmes’ approach is refreshingly ego-free. The man standing at the back behind his decks is happy to let the others in the band have centre stage, while he subtly knob-twiddles them through the tunes, looking noble and wise.
Standing stock still at the front dressed in black is ex- Beta Band MC, Sean Reveron. He’s snarling “FREE ASS O-C-8!” over the stoned looped grooves of the said song. He’s got dreads and a big beard, and looks like he’d murder you for a cigarette. Then he takes his hat and coat of, and we see he’s surprisingly camp. He struts, swaggers, and even moonwalks. He raps a little, but mainly he flails his dreads around and tells Bristol they’re “Free Ass.” Cool.
[l-zone3]In contrast, we have dressed-to-kill, Bond girl-gone-bad, Petra Jean Phillipson. She’s sassy, sparkly-eyed, and has the most amazing voice. Like, truly amazing. Fluid and beautiful, it makes you cry, incensing you with excitement and anticipation and caressing with its sultry warmth. Quite unlike typical lounge party dinner muzak, (Portishead, Morcheeba and all that), which any soulful female singer has the danger of drifting into, Petra’s vocal is a bit grungy and dirty, and reminds you of seedy cafes, filled with a muggy Gauloises haze. The Free Association seem to like the idea of a slick funky sound, but then decide at the last moment that they’ve changed their minds, and punch it in the stomach, so it’s pathetically whimpering on the floor, its polished sheen lying in tatters beside it.
[r-zone4]The chain-smoking guitarist in the corner, Steve Hilton, plays ‘chukka-chukka’ guitars, and looks like one of the blokes in Coldplay who isn’t Chris Martin. There’s also a member of the US Militia playing cute little plinky-plonky keyboards, and a slouching, lank-haired bassist chugging out dangerously funky basslines. In fact, considering David Holmes is the curator and mastermind of the band, you barely notice he’s there at all amongst all the colourful characters onstage.
And then, there are the songs. Phillipson’s soaring, haunting vocals merges into brooding, continuous bass of ‘La Dolce Vita’, with Reveron interspersing it with his sparse, snappy rapping. Its urgent and highly strung. It’s the sound of dark, rainwashed streets- an inner city soundtrack. Genres are mashed up and spin around. It feels like a mix tape, made by David Holmes, and filled out by the band, but take it into their own hands and make it their own. The radiant gospel of ‘Pushin’ a Broom’ cannot get anymore different from the manic rawk of punk-blast of ‘Let’s make some money.’
The Free Association appreciate that variety is the spice of life. If you’re not conscious of that fact, then here’s are an utterly convincing way of being introduced to it.