Tyler Holmes: “Invisible Island” Album Review

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Written By: Ethan Griggs

My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com

There’s a whole handful of genre descriptions of the new release by Tyler Holmes, Invisible Island, listed on his Bandcamp: alternative, folk, hip-hop, experimental electronic, pop and – my favorite – United States. This is fitting, as Holmes guides us through a relatively short yet very impactful piece of work that in many ways sounds distinctly like 21st century America. This is best expressed through some of the album’s song titles like “Jennifer Aniston” and “Dream Cum True”, but it’s also prominent in the artist’s mix of the real and the synthetic: slick yet mellow electronic production juxtaposed with yearning piano, saxophone, and vocals so vulnerable it’s like the singer is whispering in your ear. The multi-faceted sound of the record can be inferred by the striking image that adorns the cover – something creepy and dark illuminated by color.

This idea is first introduced in “1/2”. The soundscape is dark through the first half of the song, with a desperate verse rapped by Holmes, before opening up into a widescreen synth-pop anthem. The album’s second track “If U Want 2” is also representative of this with its brooding, murmuring bass accompanied by the beautiful falsetto of singer Eddie Gessford. The beat on “Jennifer Aniston” sounds totally synthetic, but it actually features real drums played by Brontez. Clearly this is more of a collaborative work than the artist’s name leads you to believe. “Glitter & Glue”, produced by Tadashi Kubota, is a feast of different hues of wild synth and a glitchy vocal from Holmes, sounding like a track from Jamie xx’s In Colour.

The record takes a sharp left with the gorgeous saxophone (played by Travis D) and vocals of “Dream Cum True”. A live take, it sounds like it was recorded in an empty venue or outside on a quiet night under a silent overpass. Holme’s voice is drenched in reverb and morphing into electrocuting feedback. The Aja Archuleta collaboration “Double Bottom Battle” is a cross between ear-splitting fractals of electronics Nx a mellow 80’s pop song in the style of Mr. Mister or Toto.

Of course, no good pop record is complete without a great piano ballad, and Holmes delivers just that with “Donkey Dimension”, recalling the early work of Antony and the Johnsons; the angelic murmur of his voice being practically indecipherable through the echo and reverb. Holmes could’ve turned in the work right there and then, but there’s still the absolutely euphoric and stunning title track, a fourteen minute long electronic epic filled with haunting vocal manipulation, extraterrestrial sound effects, and celestial organ drones. This awesome release from Tyler Holmes on Ratskin Records is sure to leave jaws hanging.