Bob Holroyd's musical journey is very well summed up by the name of the band that
he formed at sixth form college - 'Beside the Point'. After several hours debating
what the band should be called it was finally decided that what was important is
the music, the name is secondary, beside the point. And hence the band was christened.
Furthermore, this decision helped formulate Bob's approach to writing music which
has been described by some as a kind of musical gumbo; a collage of seemingly disparate
styles and instrumentation that somehow seem, against the odds, to work. The sound
has variously been described as 'ambient, global electronica, world chill, abstract
dance and new age classical' to name but a few, but this only serves to highlight
the problem with categorising his work. This has become something of a crusade as
far as he is concerned, feeling that wherever possible musical boundaries should
be broken down to allow all influences and cultures to work together to create, plain
and simply - music, free from category or stereotype.
To date Bob Holroyd has released 5 commercial albums; 2 on his own Soundscape Music
label, and 2 on the San Francisco based label Six Degrees Records. His first, Fluidity
& Structure was the soundtrack to an audio visual art installation. Each visual work,
created by Bob using a complex blend of graphic and photographic techniques, was
complimented by its own piece of music, thus extending the filmscore concept into
the spheres of modern art. Initially installed/performed in the Maltings Art Gallery
in his home town of Farnham, Surrey in September 1993, it later went on to 'The Big
Chill' in London, and the EMMA Festival in Derby.
His second album Stages, also on the Soundscape label featured the first recording
of Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) for 14 years since his premature retirement
from the music industry. Having been granted special permission to record the Islamic
Call to Prayer inside the Regent's Park mosque in London, it was a pleasant surprise
to find that Yusuf Islam had come to sing the Holy text. Bob then composed a track
around this haunting vocal.
A Different Space was Bob's third album, and the first on the US Six Degrees label.
Released to critical acclaim it featured the cult classic African Drug. Previously
remixed by pioneering DJs Coldcut, this version is actually Bob's own remix of the
original track, which first appeared on Fluidity & Structure. Since the release of
A Different Space, Bob's music has seen a surge of licencing which has seen tracks
from the album appearing on at least 50 compilations including Ministry of Sounds
Pure Global Chillout, Francois K's The Essential Mix, Coldcut's Journeys by DJs,
Buddha Beats, and Claude Challe 's Sun. The track The Sheer Weight of Memory also
appears in the Wayne Wang film The Centre of the World.
The fourth, and latest album Without Within includes a cover of the classic Peter
Gabriel track Games Without Frontiers. It is the first cover Bob has done, and also
the first time he has sung on a release. It also features American singer and multi
instrumentalist Happy Rhodes on backing vocals, and the song, although 23 years old
is as relevant today as it was when it was first recorded; perhaps even more so.
Another highlight on this new album is the first track Looking Back. It is a piece
written using the voices of the Kalahari Bushmen (Khoi San) and was first released
on a charity compilation titled Sanscapes One on the MELT 2000 label to draw attention
to the plight of the Kalahari Bushmen and their struggle to survive. Later at a special
benefit concert in London, !Ngubi , whose voice is heard on Looking Back expressed
via an interpreter that this was the Bushmen's favourite track on the entire record!
This, for Bob sums up what music can and should be all about. Neither spoke each
others language, and their backgrounds are so different as to be virtually impossible
to compare, but they each found that music can cross these cultural divides and lead
to a better understanding of each other. The music of the Bushmen represents very
much their 20,000 year old history and their daily way of life. Although many of
these ways haven't changed for centuries, they are still a living, evolving people,
perfectly summed up by the new song they now sing having been on a plane to England
-Big Metal Bird. As a result of this project, a piece of modern 20th century living
is now forever represented by an ancient people in the Namib desert, and at the same
time their centuries old voices now find a new audience in Europe and America via
state of the art recording technology in a studio in London. We are ultimately from
the same place, and our similarities are so much greater than our differences.
Recorded mostly in his home town of Farnham, the album Hollow Man has a less world
feel about it compared to previous offerings. It still has the trademark spacious,
textural, cinematic qualities of past work, but draws more from Bob's immediate environment
rather than influences farther afield. The result is a less percussive, more introspective
urban sounding album that nevertheless still draws on a wide variety of styles including
ambient, trip-hop, global electronica and jazz.
Another departure is recording the majority of the album with No.1 album producer/engineer
Simon Painter who has worked with a wide variety of people including flute virtuoso
Ian Clarke, and Carter USM, and has helped in developing Holroyd's layered, textural
guitar sound which appears on many of the new tracks. The album also includes a bonus
CD - an epic 23 minute ambient journey called " All Colours ".