Record Review: On The Silence, Durham's Horizontal Hold Stakes Out Knotty New Ground | Record Review | Indy Week

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Record Review: On The Silence, Durham's Horizontal Hold Stakes Out Knotty New Ground

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It's risky to read into a band's name, but few feel as apt as Horizontal Hold's. The Durham quartet shares its handle with a skronky and groovy track by the British experimentalists This Heat, as well as an adjustment control for analog televisions. The name points precisely to the band's jagged, idiosyncratic mix of noisy pop and analog-era indie rock.

On its first full-length effort, The Silence, Horizontal Hold builds upon the raw energy of 2014's This Is Not a Living EP with a more cleanly produced, but irreverent and rangy approach. "Return to Love Canal" rides a steady swell of pensive keyboard and bass, threatening to explode into post-punk furor. "Sexy, Not Dirty" follows a serpentine guitar riff that wouldn't feel out of place on a Polvo record. The whole album delights in surprising dynamics and referential glimpses, from the surfy guitar riff in "Mayday" to the lumbering bass groove of "Brazilian Butt Lift."

The quartet—bassist and singer Kim Walker, guitarist Dave Cantwell, drummer Elizabeth Hammond, and synth player and singer Kerry Cantwell—boasts extensive experience in local bands. Their résumés include stints in Drug Yacht, Cantwell Gomez & Jordan, In the Year of the Pig, Wembley, and The Hem of His Garment, among several others. It's telling too that those bands share little in common except an apparent affection for experimentation and unconventional songcraft.

Horizontal Hold skillfully employs a cut-and-paste approach of building from small song-fragments and seeing where it leads results in songs with consistently surprising trajectories. The band's refusal to play within a template extends even to its choice of physical media formats; The Silence is available on CD and digital, as well as T-shirt and scented candle (which come with download codes). But the irreverence is refreshing, and the veteran panache the band applies to its unorthodox indie rock maintains a degree of restraint that keeps the band's tangents from wandering too far.

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