Rock band AC/DC have more than their fair share of famous songs. Their fiery thumper of a riff that announces ‘Thunderstruck’, however, is a classic that surges with power decades after it was released. It would be proud of Motion’s opening blur, where notes zoom past at the speed of sound. As the electronic arpeggios accelerate into the air, the rapid pace is there for all to see (all that’s missing is the sonic boom), and it brings to mind the rush of that famous intro, not to mention its subsequent power chord eruption. Daft Punk’s ‘Aerodynamic’ isn’t too far behind with its blazing fireball of notes, either. Although music constantly moves, the sheer speed is a vivid demonstration in acceleration. If you could reverse the phrase the speed of sound with the sound of speed, that’s what it’d sound like. It’s the sound of rapid motion, travelling so fast that the white clouds can only shine temporarily upon the thin sticks that once masqueraded as a dense forest. Rolling and rolling, the green fields fly by, reflected in the glassy window of the eye.
It is a breathless start. It’s not just the vision that blurs; the music does too, rocketing through the notes as it rips through exhilarating new dimensions. Holtkamp, one half of Mountains, has a lot of digital love to give. His music is the apple of his eye, and this fond relationship can be heard in the radiant warm tone. He uses analog, digital and acoustic sources to stretch out the space within the music, shifting the varying tones to ‘explore the perceived effect of moving from one dynamic space to another’.
Nowhere else do you get this kind of rush; so fast that the sixteenths themselves are just a blur. New rhythms emerge, flicking individually, blinking out of time with one another and then syncing up like traffic lights. Amber colours turn to green emeralds, and the uppermost layer gleams with a smooth and glassy surface like that of the gemstone, helping the melody to propel itself forward. A runway opens up, gliding with ease over the terrain as if it were the spaceship in the Disney movie Flight of the Navigator.
As the crystal melodic lines emerge, they bend and traverse the bright, laser-like electronic terrain. The electric guitar melodies of ‘Vert’ are pinpoints of light that tiptoe through an electronic world, and although the melody feels like it has been lightly touched by some improvisation, the fluttering electronic bass line is tinged with predetermination. The bass lines move up and down with a busy, chaotic purpose, but the sedate melody is what really catches the ear. Despite the frantic bass line – the frantic motion – the track is calming; speed does not necessarily have to mean high octane. Take note, Hollywood.
The silver, shimmering tones of ‘Crotales’ appear to glow with a darker jet of light. Notes twinkle against a sure bass, and the music seems to slow down. Tempo is relative, though; 40 bpm on the metronome is slow when compared to 120, and 120 is nothing compared to 200. Similarly, 40 bpm races away after listening to something at half the speed. The opening drone of ‘Endlessness’ appears to propel itself through the computerized world, even though it could be deemed a slow beginning. Drones are often thought of as possessing a slow, sludgy movement. Not so; they can be supersonic, too. Take away the bass line – the rhythmic cornerstone – and the track starts to float, left without the lifeline of a stable rhythm. It’s true that the electronic squeaks and squalls produce their own rhythms, and like the rhythmic hiss of insects they chirp incessantly with their own variety of words direct from their electronic vocabulary.
Last on the set-list is the aptly named ‘Endlessness’, which drifts easily. As the prominent notes slide around, they definitely seem to be calling out. Stylistically, the rock bands and electronic artists are vastly different, but the pursuit of speed produces the same result. They can, with differing methods, increase the pace and the momentum. Koen Holtkamp has produced something special with his beautiful Motion, capturing the sound of speed without any kind of fretboard shredding in sight. Yngwie Malmsteen’s blazing arpeggios are sure to leave your jaw on the floor (technically if not emotionally), but music is, of course, entirely subjective – which is one of the reasons why we love it. There’s no denying that the speed on show leaves you needing to hold onto your stuff. Holtkamp takes a different approach. There aren’t any flash licks or distorted fifths, but the result is exactly the same. In doing this, Holtkamp has left us to appreciate music herself; the speed – the motion – shows us just how diverse she can truly be.