James Holden A Cambodian Spring
Published Feb 11, 2019Filmed over six years, from 2009 to 2015, Irish director Chris Kelly's observational documentary A Cambodian Spring tracks a community living along the Boeung Kak Lake in Cambodia's capital, and their efforts to resist the violent land-grabbing of government-backed real estate developers. On British producer and Bedroom Community label head James Holden's impressionistic soundtrack, that drama is hypnotically reflected through weightless sequences of foreboding drone and beatless trance.
"Self-Playing Schmaltz" — the decaying, void-bound finale to 2013's The Inheritors — reappears to punctuate the film's chilling denouement, but Holden's soundtrack debut is an otherwise entirely new offering of stylistically mixed entries.
While Holden's recent work has increasingly gravitated towards live collaborations (including his newly expanded touring band the Animal Spirits), this is a product of isolated solo studio immersion. Primarily rendered on a Prophet 600 and a Hammond Organ, the resulting soundtrack is a multidimensional showcase.
"Srey Pov's Theme" "Monk's Theme," and "The Villagers" respectively announce their title characters with austere IDM, shimmering, searching ambience, and lyrical landscapes, while, over the course of the three-track "Disintegration Drone" cycle, an enveloping drone pulls listeners through thundering darkness as Holden pushes his Hammond to its absolute limits, the organ's internal speaker cone eventually shredding itself to pieces in the final act.
Taken apart from the film, track-to-track, the mix of styles and tones across the soundtrack's different themes can be emotionally jarring and overwhelming, but so are the experiences depicted in Kelly's picture.
Over the course of the film, two "housewife activists" fall out with each other as one travels to New York to receive an award from Hillary Clinton, while the other's home remains in the path of the demolition; a Buddhist monk in saffron robes risks his status to help the community as he attempts to amplify their voices in protest; and a lake is filled with sand.
Without falling back on the instrumental emotional manipulation film scores so frequently default to, Holden simply grounds those scenes of uprise and upheaval with that, foregoing crescendos and tension and simply riding out the moments with sober contemplation. To Holden's credit, these tired-eyed tracks simply drift along and find beauty in the moment. (Border Community)