Album of the Week \\ Quantic presents a soundclash of city life as creative director on ‘Atlantic Oscillations’

21st June 2019
Returning with his first solo album in five years, Quantic’s ideas are all the richer for his musical growth in Columbia and new studio home in New York.
Words: Ammar Kalia

Will Holland is a well–travelled man. Having spent seven years in Colombia, honing his multi–instrumental skills and releasing his own blend of cumbia, funk and soul under the various pseudonyms of Flowering Inferno and the Quantic Soul Orchestra, he now finds himself in New York, recording his first solo album in five years and reclaiming his original moniker Quantic. The resulting record, ‘Atlantic Oscillations’, relflects the newfound stability and community of Holland’s NY base. Recorded in his purpose-built ‘Selva’ studio, Holland takes up the position of creative director, enlisting the likes of Afro-Colombian singer Nidia Góngora, British soul vocalist Alice Russell and Stevie Wonder and Prince collaborator Sly5thAve to create 11 tracks of orchestral funk, jazz-inflected soul and pop-focused lyricism.

Holland is set to tour with Bonobo in support of his latest record ‘Migration’ and the similarities between both of the New York-based producers is evident on opener ‘Divergence’. Sweeping strings and an undulating synth herald an infectious shuffling groove, reminiscent of Bonobo’s work on his breakthrough ‘Black Sands’ album. This pensive violin-soul continues on the ethereal vocal-led ‘Incendium’ and is a satisfying take on the Bonobo dancefloor brand, if a little monosyllabic in its pastiche. 

The highlights on ‘Atlantic Oscillations’ come instead when Holland moves into the ’70s synth-disco and samba he has perfected through his previous records – the kind of backing that wouldn’t go amiss on a mid–tempo Chic number or a Masters at Work remix. This vibe comes on the title track and its thumping four-to-the-floor bass line interlaced with arpeggiated keys, as well as the Alice Russell-featuring ‘Now Or Never’. 

Holland’s strengths have always been his ear for arrangement, deftly weaving meandering saxophone lines through a flurry of percussive statements and floating melody to create a captivating, enveloping musical conversation. This mood prevails on the latter half of ‘Atlantic Oscillations’, where Holland focuses less on creatung mid–tempo selections for DJs or radio-play but rather on scene-setting through instrumentation alone. On ‘Orquodea’, Holland evokes a sun-laden, humid samba through the chromatic baritone lines threaded by Sly5thAve, while ‘Tierra Mama’ deftly employs Nidia Góngora’s choral vocals over a bouncy drum-machine pattern to create a propulsive movement. 

For all his globe-trotting, Holland has produced an album which sits squarely within the amorphous multi-cultural history of New York. Each Latin rhythm or bowed violin phrase is parsed through the dancefloor soundsystem of the mega-city, creating a listening experience which spans genre without ever settling into a singular tradition. In fact, the record might be more challenging if Holland indulged his penchant for cross-cultural sampling further, yet as Quantic, Holland toes this genre-bending line with a signature restraint, tantalising the listener without giving too much away.

Ultimately, ‘Atlantic Oscillations’ is a record which will surely come into its own in a live setting. Here, backed by his accomplished collaborators, Holland can showcase the full breadth of his Jazz–referencing compositions, pairing danceable rhythms with an improvisatory flair; the unmistakeable soundclash of city life. Holland may have established himself in Selva for the foreseeable future but there is a restlessness to his ear and his music. ‘Atlantic Oscillations’ aims to somewhat quell this wanderlust but the journeying nature of Holland’s musical interests will only make for deeper dives into ever more varied music on the records to come. 


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