Scott Holmes – “We Used to Paint Stars in the Sky” – 90%

We used to paint stars In the sky cover art

“We Used to Paint Stars in the Sky” is the latest effort by Scott Holmes, a solo artist coming to us from Scotland. A quick glance at his biography will tell you Scott has spent a lifetime surrounded by music but has never been influenced by others. Those two characteristics alone have the ability to set artists apart from the rest of the genre. Expectations have been raised!

So the album begins with the title track as lush vibrant tones flutter in and out as a second guitar layer begins building up. When the drums finally hit about a minute and half in there is a really magical moment that instantly brought me back to the first time I heard *Shels “Plains of the Purple Buffalo Pt 2,” one of my favorite tracks of 2011. While the music does indeed share some traits with that album, this track is its own beast and a huge opener. The next track is “Always The Last to Know” and drops the intensity of the last track in favor of eardrum piercing keys (perhaps guitars, the sound is interesting) and more perfectly textured walls of sounds. The mix is quite well in that all the instruments are equally represented. The drums are powerful but not overbearing and the layers of guitar work can easily be heard if you choose to focus in on one particular track. That’s what I like in a post-rock album.

“Ascension” is a great track that begins quick and has this uplifting aura present all around it. The drumming is rather systematic sounding while the guitar is simple yet highly enjoyable. In “Levels of Greatness” we see the clean guitar give way to the heavier feedback guitar only for the first 90 seconds until it makes a reappearance sporting an extremely chill tone that is my favorite on the album. The craftsmanship of this album is truly off the charts. Each song is well planned and unlike the previous track. While this does occasionally lead to strange transitions between the tracks they are quickly forgotten. The album takes another twist with “October” as waves crash, a church or clock bell faintly rings in the background, a bird chirps and a car passes in a beautiful ambient soundscape intro. Female Vocals sound angelic and are not overpowering and the guitars have just enough echo in them to make you appreciate the large sound stage.

The album picks up the pace with “Signals” as the drumming intensity goes up a notch as guitars swirl among windy ambiance. The whole track has an awesome djent feel to it while retaining much of the albums natural ambiance. Scott Holmes has shown us just a wide array of versatility throughout this album’s tracks. “Death of an Orchid” is full of emotion as guitars twinkle amongst a sea deeply layered vocals and cymbal crashes. Drumming retains the same intensity found in the last track as it’s now the guitar’s chance to shine as they become increasingly heavier. This track has an incredible transitional period that stopped me dead in my tracks. The last 90 seconds of this track is a work of art.

It’s funny that I consider this an ambient post-rock album even though the heavier tones that have been splashed throughout the album would suggest otherwise, especially on a track like “One Day Your Dreams Will Find You.” The 11-track album enters the final stretch with “Journey to the Stars,” a relaxing trip through space. “Let Us Fly Tonight” lost me completely with its vocals and quick pacing in what I felt like a case was right track wrong placement on the album. The album wraps up with “Doorway to Tomorrow” which has traditional vocals. Usually I would shame the artist for the inclusion of a track like this, but given the range of Holme’s musical prowess has shown, it makes sense that a song like this would close out the album. As a guitarist, I think Scott is in the elite company of very select few post-rock musicians. As an album, “We Used to Pain Stars in the Sky” is a true showcase of workmanship and talent. I said that my expectations were high and I certainly was not disappointed by this effort. A fantastic album all around. 7/30/12

Available for bout $8 on bandcamp: http://scottholmesmusic.bandcamp.com/album/we-used-to-paint-stars-in-the-sky