Feature, News, Reviews

Holy Motors Share “Endless Night” – Horse LP Out October 16th On Wharf Cat Records

August 13, 2020
Grete Ly Valing

Holy Motors Share “Endless Night”

Horse LP Out October 16th On Wharf Cat Records

Holy Motors, the enigmatic quartet of ex-Soviet cowboys,are back with their second single, ‘Endless Night,’ ahead of their second album, Horse. It’s the follow up to the group’s stunning 2018 debut, Slow Sundown, and will arrive on October 16th via Wharf Cat Records(Bambara, Dougie Poole, Public Practice).

‘Endless Night’ devours you, hypnotic riffs and dramatic soundscapes add to this fierce projection. A slower-paced track that is filled with high-intensity instrumentation; where the audience is mesmerized by the strong vocal presence captivating the emotion of the track. Holy Motors fuse a western feel to their pure rock resilient approach, guitar tones and riffs that are in the league of Khruangbin- yet Holy Motors own their unique sound. Holy Motors craft such a far-reaching expansive and unique atmosphere within their outlook, a triumphant force.

Guitarist and songwriter Lauri Raus offers this on the story behind the track: “I woke up. It was still morning. Last night the Virginia state police had pulled our van over somewhere in the Shenandoah Valley and the officer on duty insisted we abstain from further driving and stay the night or what was left of it anyway right there in little “Helltown” Front Royale. Iggy Pop was on TV the next morning. We had buttered waffles and coffee and I had a feeling I was going to write a song about the country brown linen and curtains we had in our motel that night.”

While previous single “Country Church shows there’s more to the band than the near-impenetrable darkness that their work to date might suggest, ‘Endless Night’ finds them gravitating towards the ethereal production and existential subject matter of prior releases. The two singles showcase the range of complex compositions and humanity that are a hallmark to Horse.

Though their music has often been tied to the traditions of Americana and America roots music, Holy Motors were formed in Tallinn, Estonia in 2013, when founding member Lauri Ruas (songwriter and one of the band’s three guitarists) recruited Eliann Tulve, who was just 16 at the time, to join the band as songwriter and lead vocalist. With Tulve’s gorgeously foreboding vocals serving as a ballast for the guitar section’s “infinity-pool-style shimmer” (Pitchfork) the band quickly became as un-ignorable as they were inscrutable, rising from the ranks of eager supporting act (for Low, at SXSW) to sought after headliner (at NYC underground-meets-above-ground mainstay Berlin) in just a matter of days during their first unofficial tour of the US in 2018.

That same year marked the release of their critically acclaimed debut LP, Slow Sundown, on New York City’s equally enigmatic Wharf Cat Records, an album that garnered praise and airplay not just in the band’s native Estonia (where it won Tallinn’s Music Week award and a nomination for Debut Album of the Year by the Estoniain Music Awards), but also via a battery of publications west of the Baltic, including Stereogum (Album of the Week), Bandcamp (Album of the Day), and the UK’s DIY Mag (Neu Pick). All this  momentum went so far as to capture the attention of one of the band’s very own idols, Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, who approached them after seeing a live performance in Berlin and would go on to produce a handful of tracks for the band in 2019 as well as join them for their set at Switzerland’s Festival Nox Orae (you can watch the full set here) during a summer itinerary dotted with European music festivals. 

But rather than being blunted and worn down by the tumultuous forces of success, Holy Motors’ incongruence has instead grown all the more prevalent and endearing. They remain musicians from an ex-Soviet country producing music that has been described as “cowboy dream-pop with a dark side” (Interview Magazine), “shoegaze that sounds like the old West” (The Fader), and like “a twang-filled soundtrack to… cowboy melancholy” (Beat). The resulting mystique is an inalienable part of the band’s DNA, stemming from the shared infatuation with the American West that the members developed waiting out Estonia’s long, grim winters with the warm company of American western films (Badlands and Paris, Texas amongst their favorites) and their instruments. What began as an innocent fascination evolved into a sincere embodiment of that dreamy, melancholy cowboy aura, both in their music and persona as a band. 

Now, at 22 years old, Eliann Tulve resembles Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, reincarnated as an Estonian cowgirl. She is enigmatic as ever but stands more firmly alongside co-songwriter Lauri Ruas, the solidification of their roles perhaps accounting for the more hopeful turn their songwriting has taken of late. Their new LP Horsewhich is due out on Wharf Cat on October 16th, finds the band acknowledging the Americana and rockabilly strands of their musical DNA without sacrificing any of the otherworldly mystique that keeps them from neatly conforming to the shoegaze and dreampop labels often applied to their music.

From the album’s opening moments, songs like “Country Church,” with its major key and classic rhythm and blues guitarline, and “Midnight Cowboy,” which sounds like a lost Buddy Holly 45 played at 33 rpm, make it clear that Horse — even if it may not accomplish the impossible task of demystifying this band of ex-Soviet cowboys — will at least show you that there’s more to them than the near-impenetrable darkness of their work to date may suggest. While tracks like “Trouble” and “Endless Night” gravitate towards the ethereal production and existential subject matter of prior releases, repeat listens will reveal the same complex compositions and an empathy that are much more a hallmark of Horse’s eight songs.

As a whole, Horse stands as a warmer, more human counterpoint to 2018’s celestial Slow Sundown, and showcases Holy Motors as a hypnotic force that draws listeners in and leaves them wanting more. This effect, paired with their ability to write lyrics and music that resonate with a deeply relatable feeling of isolation, has resulted in an album built to connect with people from devoted shoegaze and western psychedelia fanatics to dreamer cowboys, driving through wide open country roads under the stars.

Horse will be released October 16th on Wharf Cat Records. It is available for preorder here.

1. Country Church
2. Endless Night
3. Midnight Cowboy
4. Road Stars
5. Matador
6. Come On, Slowly
7. Trouble
8. Life Valley (So Many Miles Away)


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