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Dig independent electro? Holy Balm’s shifting sophomore EP Activity will knock your socks off

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March of 2006 was quite the historic month – Wikipedia reached it’s millionth English article, the Ice Age Sequel began its theatrical run all over the world, and (most importantly) the self-proclaimed deep partiers, Holy Balm, were spawned into existence…and nothing has been the same since.

Fast-forward 10-years and the city slickin’ trio have played venues all around Australia, had their music broadcasted all over the globe, and have left their mark on the Australian independent electro scene over and over again.

holy balm

Holy Balm’s second album brings distinctively different electro elements to the table in their unique, hybrid-house style.

A decade into the game, a collection of solid releases down, is there anywhere for Emma Ramsay, Jonathan Hochman and Anna John to go from here?

Answer: Yes!

Ladies and gentleman, presenting LP number two, Activity!

The follow up to It’s You brings on a fresher, funkier and more driven Holy Balm than we’ve seen in the past, where the group have visibly chosen quality over quantity.

Activity is avidly electronic, vocals being one of the sole physical instruments used, effectively perfecting the sound brought to us in many of their previous releases.

The record’s sound is fairly experimental and dance-heavy, influences ranging from early Daft Punk, to La Roux to the late Death Grips.

Fashion opens the album with a bang, the lone bass introduction bringing the party from the get-go, and the favorably pop hooks and late-coming saxophone sustaining the festive vibes.

The guts of the album then dive into experimental territory, Clandestine endeavoring layered vocal modulation, Hot Cold owning the minor melody and arpeggiated synthesizer notes, and Aces featuring a wobbly-bass outro that takes up over a quarter of the song, possibly as a nod to the stylings of Kanye West’s 2010 MBDTF record.

The remainder of the LP veers back into dance terrain, All Night Long likely expressing the disappointment in a partner who “used to be all night long” and has presumably mellowed out since. However, the thumping backbeat makes it difficult for us to believe it’s too sad a predicament.

Following the La Roux-esque Circumstance, the final track, entitled Dancing Gravy II, is ironically the least danceable effort on the record, and though it suggests a Dancing Gravy I may be found floating around somewhere in the interwebs, it’s unfortunately nowhere to be found…album three, perhaps?

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In essence, Activity isn’t a great leap away from the talented group’s previous works, but the changes they have made are necessary ones, displaying growth both as a band and as individual musicians.

In the intro track Emma sings, “fashion it the way you want, walk the way you feel”, which seems to reflect exactly how they’ve approached molding this record.

If a four year break is necessary for these Sydney-siders to chug out a solid record, then we’ll be more than willing to wait again.

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August 23, 2016