Swedish post-punk outfit Holograms‘ debut arrived at just the right time to end up in a Tupac SEO nightmare, but it’s probably better than the possibly chillwave-implicating alternative of just a few years prior. Yet there’s nothing cheeky or fluffily dreamy about the group’s dark and abrasive goth grind. A garage band in fidelity, while artfully abrasive in aesthetic, Holograms play a minimal and raw kind of punk that draws a heavy dose of inspiration from the Factory Records catalog. There’s no glowing, ethereal artifice here, just 11 tracks of sharp jabs of guitar, eerie synth and rumbling, rubbery basslines.
If that doesn’t quite give one the sense of the dour atmosphere within Holograms’ debut, then a listen to the opening thrum of “Monolith” certainly should. It pulses slow, a single-note bassline ominously creeping forward as abrasive shards of guitar cut through with distorted menace. It only takes a cry of “People! Places!” before that severe, harrowing rumble erupts into a fierce punk rock surge. The energy amplifies, the noise level grows ever more immense, but the band’s sense of stoic darkness remains.
There are those who might find the band’s heavy mood a bit off-putting, but much like that of like-minded Danish punks Iceage, it works remarkably well for Holograms. That straight-faced demeanor and sometimes harsh approach often makes for truly exciting songs in their case, bleeding into a moroseness on “Orpheo,” rocketing into a manic intensity on “Memories of Sweat” or even appropriating a Gang of Four-style funkiness for the sake of drama on “Apostate.” It’s not that the songs themselves aren’t fun — in fact, the band’s songs are almost invariably a riot. But the minor key ambience and frequent mentions of isolation and longing mean that, however well they might go over live or among agreeable folks, they’re rarely delivered with a smile.
None of that really matters though. Holograms’ thing is more about catharsis and fueling energy from frustration, and on that front, they pass with flying colors. More importantly, their songs are strong enough to provide a destructive vessel through which to deliver whatever downbeat message might be contained therein. Holograms don’t fight the darkness, they embrace it, and turn it into something all the more powerful.
Stream: Holograms – “Monolith”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.