The Holgans are not of this world. At least, not the world you or I experience, with the greater traumas of our times celebrated as the hottest topics. Even the act of reading this, finding what’s “out there” through news media, is to crudely bypass the Holgans’ realm, for they can only be found, or rather dialled in, if one hits the right frequency. Holgans is not just the name of a new Calgary band led by River Teeth and Ol’ Watery, but also the title associated with an “extended family of psychedelic beings.”
How did artists Teeth and Watery discover this extended family? Initially it took the right motivation, in this case, diagnosing the symptoms of cognitive dissonance in our consensus reality and feeling the push to discover previously drowned-out sounds of supernatural entities. Through improvisational writing, drawing and musicianship, along with the teachings of Hakim Bay’s “Wild Children,” Teeth and Ol’ Watery have established a communion with Holgans.
“The Holgans are possessed with a profound humanity – they feel deeply and are not immune to sorrow, fear and anger, but, because of their trans-dimensional freedom, they aren’t possessed by the degree of neurotic egoism as humans. Their principal work is ecstatic love,” says Ol’ Watery.
Now, before you hit that contemporary speed bump of cynicism towards the spiritual, consider that the music and artwork of the Holgans have evolved over nearly ten years to come to fruition. The band stresses that they are not of the typical “Higher Plane” of New Age vernacular, but traverse horizontally, from the surrounding land. They are slippery fellows, emerging out of evening flora. The latest album, The Night Garden, begins and ends with a cacophony of pond frogs croaking at dusk. A whimsically amphibious demeanour remains constant through the album, as the Holgans’ ambience baptizes the listener with sounds that dance like colourful shapes in the summer night. The singing voices of River Teeth and Ol’ Watery oscillate between innocent warriors and nautical lounge lizards.
The Night Garden was recorded in an old house — some rooms lush with plants, others left bare — with only large, circular shapes painted on the wall. Going through the space, one gets a sense that this is an informal meeting place to receive the Holgans’ transmissions, to cultivate them with care and sensitivity. Evidence of this process is everywhere. Drawings scour the walls and stage props are hung in the common rooms. This visual element is paramount to understanding the Holgans’ realm, as The Night Garden tape release includes a limited edition book of drawings, entitled “Hiders.”
“The transfer of energy from Holgans to paper is more important than the actual picture itself, though I do scrutinize it objectively later,” muses River Teeth. “It’s not about capturing a likeness, or making a portrait, it’s about mark making as a translation of the one state of being into another. What takes precedence is keeping it alive through the process of making it concrete.”
On stage, Holgans’ performances contain String Pods, which are large, white shapes designed to screen looping animations of stringy shapes that grow slowly, inviting the audience to entwine in the visual web. As the willing are brought closer to the muse, the band plays with subtle anticipation, invoking a love weapon in sound and vision. Before long, audience, band and the Holgans realm combine to encapsulate the potent, psychedelic ether.
Transverse the planes with the Holgans for their tape and book release on September 12 at Broken City.
By Jack BrideAB, Alberta