Holy Nowhere – ‘Soft Return’

Soft Return is a gripping new album from Holy Nowhere. The project arose from the creative mind of Steve Sachs, originally from New Jersey (where he was a member of the band YJY) and now based in Seattle. Sachs found himself writing less following the move to the west coast. A severe panic attack re-ignited his creative fervor, conjuring a myriad of emotions and perspectives of the world surrounding him. He then joined forces with artist/producer Dana Why, and the project came to life, with the two beginning a fruitful remote/digital collaboration. “Dana would then send me a beautiful, incredible instrumental version of my song,” Sachs explains. “This usually felt like hearing it for the first time and was a very exciting part of the process.”

Aptly, the album’s tracks collectively explore themes of introspection, chaos, and a yearning for clarity in a tumultuous world. “Save You” is a hypnotic, contemplative opener that emphasizes the project’s knack for unfolding soundscapes. “Everything just happens for no reason at all,” the vocals let out amidst trickling guitar layers, with a beautifully capricious feeling evident in both the easy-flowing instrumentation and thematic lyrics. “I need a little bit of peace and quiet to collect my thoughts,” the vocals convey with a similarly thematic engrossment on “Press Pause,” touting a breezy alt-pop charm amongst commiserations of coping within an overwhelming world. Soft Return quickly establishes a desire to find a break “from all the noise,” particularly within a society whose order and balance seem driven by tumult rather than intended direction.

The more rousing guitar buzzes within “Infinite Mirror” provides a catching immediacy, even amongst lyrics that continue in their introspection on the world’s chaos — and a yearning for seeing truths with greater clarity. Textured guitar tones evoke a ’90s alt-rock and shoegaze-touched nostalgia, particularly as approaching the three-minute turn as the vocals fade and re-emerge amidst the hazy, lush guitars. A serenely atmospheric detailing shows instead on “Ghostly in the Walls.” Quaint guitars complement lyrics depicting a nocturnal allure, and the sounds that occur as one sleeps. From the more rock-ready rousing of “Infinite Mirror” to the sleepy contemplation within “Ghostly in the Walls,” Soft Return impresses with its tonal range and consistently emotive intrigue.

Soft Return continues strongly through its second half, with “You’re Moving On” — lamenting “I miss you, but I guess you’ve moving on.” Lyrical illustrations of shame and fear of rejection prove stirring, particularly set against the gentle guitar work. “Wailing Loon” continues the chilly immersion, as eerie organs interject alongside jazzy guitar lushness. “Just A Memory” closes the album with a vibrant pop-ready punch, following these more serenely placed precedents. The playful “it’s all that’s left,” vocal pitch alternation drives infectiously into a pop-punk guitar ardency. Soft Return is exemplary of Holy Nowhere’s range of hooky pop songwriting, atmospheric rock, and atmospheric crawls alike.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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