The Hole Punch Generation

 Cat: AB034
 Time: February 2011
 Media: CD & Digital Download

 Info:  The Hole Punch Generation have been together 
 for five years having formed in Boston, USA. Their 
 music is defined by it's intensity and beauty and has 
 been compared to bands such as Radiohead, M83,
 Arcade Fire & Sigur Ros. Each track soars and glides
 across manipulated electronics, shoegaze guitar riffs 
 and the unique outpouring of Balthrop’s unique falsetto 
 vocals. Throughout, the pure emotional rawness of the 
 music shines through. 

 Artist site:
 PDF Press Release: Download

 01. Don't' Go 
 02. They're On To Me
 03. Shallow
 04. Strap Up
 05. Conversations 
 06. Run
 07. Reprise
 08. Stoned 
 09. Masquerades
 10. The Morning After 
 11. Buried Alive
 12. Coyotes

VIDEO | Conversations

QUESTIONS | The Hole Punch Generation

 1. Who are you? 
 The Hole Punch Generation are Patrick Balthrop, Caleb 
 Epps, and Adam Sturtevant.

 2. Why do you write music? 
 We can't imagine not writing music. We write music 
 simply because we have to.

 3. How would you describe your music? 
 Our music is a thick stew of everything we have 
 heard up until we pressed record. Electronic 
 shoegaze for the genre-obsessed.

 4. What does this album mean to you? 
 This album is the culmination of five years of songs, 
 sounds, software, and instruments. Each song has 
 been rewritten and re-recorded at least five times. 
 Each patch went through extensive re-working and 
 re-jiggering. It is a labor of love. And in the end, we 
 can only hope the music speaks for itself.

 5. Can you elaborate on some of your creative 
 Our music always begins with song: words set to 
 music. After a song is written, we begin to explore 
 production in the studio. This aspect of our work is
 lengthy. Alternate guitar tunings passed through 
 SuperCollider, Max/MSP, and Reaktor patches. 
 Analog synthesizer patches made and printed. 
 Game Boy sound chips hacked for textures we 
 couldn't find anywhere else. Toy pianos bought and 
 broken as we beat out melodies. Strings arranged 
 then re-arranged. Field recordings and sound 
 designs chopped up live using Monomes. Bass lines 
 passed through fuzz pedals. All set to improvised 
 drum takes played live in the studio. One strict rule 
 we adhere to: If we can't do it live, we don't do it in
 the studio. 

 6. What are your future plans? 
 We plan on playing shows and touring to support 
 our release. Some of our favorite electronic 
 musicians are hard at work on remixes of our 
 songs. And we are hard at work in the studio 
 sketching songs, sounds, and software for our 
 follow up album.

VIDEO | Conversations
REVIEWS | Conversations

 Somewhere in the midst of all that glossed over, trendy, auto-tuned bullshit that we call the modern day music 
 industry, there are bands who truly deserve to be listened to, and you won't find them in the five pound January 
 sale section of your local supermarket, you have to dig for them, and it's generally only luck that allows you to 
 find these gems.

 The Hole Punch Generation are one of these gems. Formed over five years ago in Boston, they have been 
 compared to Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Arcade Fire and Coldplay, but strangely sound nothing like any of them in 
 general (perhaps tinges of Sigur Ros). What we have here infact, is lush dreamy soundscapes reminiscent at 
 times of the likes of M83, but never losing any form of originality.

 Here is music that is happy to sooth you to sleep, here is a band that desperately should not be overlooked. 

 Boston trio the Hole Punch Generation formed five years ago, and since then have been fine-tuning their “sounds 
 like” radar to nail as many big names as possible. A quick look at their web reveals impressive icons: 
 Sigur Rós, Arcade Fire, Radiohead, and Coldplay, plus 24 pages of unsigned duos who vaguely sound like M83. 
 With a lure that big they need a pretty good hook, and luckily they’ve got one in the form of vocalist Patrick 
 Balthrop, who howls like someone’s bored two 4mm holes in him using penetrative office equipment. How ironic. 
 While he plays guitar against the synth, drum, and video tracks of Caleb Ebbs and Adam Sturtevant, the Hole 
 Punch Generation identity takes form: break-up songs drowned in neon gloom, or Cut Copy channeling Gordon 
 Sumner as opposed to his friskier dance cousin Bernard. You’re given seven seconds to imagine how that kind 
 of fusion could possibly work until “Don’t Go” explodes, bursting into life with a sledgehammer of shoegaze that 
 hits you and vibrates for forty minutes. Welcome to the world of the Hole Punch Generation: everything thrown 
 at you, kitchen sink first. 

 Surprisingly, everything that follows the kitchen sink actually sounds pretty good. Balthrop’s falsetto can easily 
 handle the drum crunches and giddy keyboards like the pained teenager he’s mimicking, and as he screams, 
 “Don’t Go / Don’t Go / Never forget” on the intro, you get an inkling of sincerity, and not just the notion these are 
 razor blades he’s half-heartedly leaving for his family to discover. It helps that his bandmates can match his voice 
 for intensity; the blasts of dejected guitar on “Shallow” are just the job for first-time runaways, and “Masquerades”’ 
 chiming riffs paint summers as cruel as anything Bananarama dreamt up. Balthrop’s singing is only part of the Hole 
 Punch Generation’s arsenal—they take a surgical approach to songwriting, with each track’s breathy neurosis 
 carefully dissecting Roxy Music’s Avalon (1982) and everything on Type Records. If you want disheveled 
 symphonies, you’ve come to the right place. If you want Richard Ashcroft’s solo career crossed with the sounds
 of an interrogated unicorn, you can come in too. 

 The one thing THPG isn’t is bland, which is odd considering the apparent lack of restraint in its try-anything formula.
 People halfway out the door will pause by the time “The Mornings After” kicks in, because it’s not often you get to
 hear a three-piece band attempting Squarepusher drill beats (especially when the singer’s just stunned you with 
 a “Wish I could kill them all”). It’s the same story on single “Conversations,” where a slightly less-than-
 Squarepusher drum loop still kicks the bejesus out of a hangdog guitar line. Every time you think HPG are defaulting
 to conservative pop-rock, they lunge in a spontaneous direction, and force you to go with them and attempt to 
 keep up or have your arm violently dislocated. 

 Occasionally they swap their energy for something more dreamy, such as the folk leanings of “They’re On To 
 Me,” where Balthrop steps five paces back from the microphone, but there’s the suggestion that these are just 
 dips in excitement rather than a slump or distraction. If you want their manifesto in one easy nugget then look 
 to the finale, “Coyotes.” It’s here where, after eleven previous passes, Balthrop’s indecipherability winds itself
 beautifully around Ebbs’ electronica and Sturtevant’s patter of drums. It feels right that you can’t tell what he’s 
 singing. The sane people out there might question the intentions of a band who put only six clear lyrics on a 
 forty-minute pop album, but the sane people are not to be trusted. They haven’t digested 250 bands to make 
 one album. Or named themselves after a desk utensil.

 Looks like David Newman’s (aka Autistici) label, Audiobulb Records, is taking a stab at breaking through 
 musical genre boundaries, that so often constrain other catalogs by bias and expectations. By signing a Boston 
 based three-member band, The Hole Punch Generation (consisting of Patrick Balthrop on guitar and vocals, 
 Caleb Epps on bass and synth, and Adam Sturtevant on drums), Audiobulb leaps from micro-tonal, minimal, and 
 experimental sounds to song-based electronica, post-rock and thick shoegaze, for the likes of Lights Out Asia, 
 Port-Royal with a mix of Blueneck and maybe even Thom Yorke. And if genre-classification is such a silly thing 
 to do, Audiobulb’s pursuit of music that evokes an emotional response should not be concerned with labels. 
 Setting out to compose an album that should be as easily reproducible live as it is in the studio, The Hole Punch 
 Generation is a raw, emotional, sky soaring, musical flight, exploring the existential themes of life, love, loss and 
 decay through twelve, DSP manipulated, guitar riff driven, and Balthrop’s falsetto soaked tracks. Recall the days 
 when you first discovered Stateless, Arcade Fire, and Phoenix, and you may get excited again about hearing 
 this new band for the first time, and becoming a loyal fan so early in their career! A very surprising and 
 enjoyable release from a favorite label!

 From Boston, USA, The Hole Punch Generation have been together for the best part of five years, methodically 
 crafting their song-based spectral electronic music. Apart from synths and laptops, they also employ guitars and 
 drums, though the former are treated through various ‘magic’ boxes and the latter, courtesy of Adam Sturtevant, 
 have something of the mechanical about them – it’s a most pleasing effect.

 Amongst the beats and electronic swathes is the voice of Patrick Balthrop, which is in turn haunting, ancient and 
 desperately vulnerable. It provides an acute emotional hit that never feels manipulative or forced, and as the 
 “Conversations” taster single indicated, they can rip your heart out without compromising a sound that is inspiring,
 uplifting and, frankly, bloody beautiful. Fans of everyone, from Radiohead to Eno, would be wise to track this 

 Together for five years, the Boston-based The Hole Punch Generation delivers on its self-titled album an intense
 shoegaze pop sound that draws upon the melodicism of a band like Coldplay and the impassioned attack of 
 groups like Radiohead and Arcade Fire. Delivered in an plaintive plea, the opening song “Don't Go” establishes 
 an emotive shoegaze template that the album's subsequent eleven songs will largely follow: soaring vocal 
 melodies presented in rich, multi-layered harmonies with Patrick Balthrop's falsetto voice and beehive electric 
 guitar playing out front and bassist Caleb Epps and drummer Adam Sturtevant not far behind. Each song comes 
 across as an impassioned outpouring of one kind or another, and the trio fleshes out its core sound with analog 
 synthesizer flourishes, electronics, toy pianos, strings, and an occasional injection of field recordings.

 Moods range from euphoric (e.g., “The Morning After,” powered by Sturtevant's post-punk drive) to melancholy, 
 even sorrowful (“Shallow,” “Conversations”), and the songs' lyrical content concerns the usual life issues of 
 love and loss, but as with much shoegaze music the words are a secondary concern to the music's sonic punch. 
 Changing things up halfway through, “Reprise” revisits the opening song as a brief drumless exercise that 
 spotlights the strong impact the group's vocal delivery can have when heard all by itself. While the group isn't 
 averse to using advanced production methods (SuperCollider, Max/MSP, and Reaktor are cited) in crafting its 
 material, The Hole Punch Generation is a song-based band first and foremost that doesn't lose sight of its words
 -and-music foundation; that the album's dozen songs weigh in at forty-one minutes speaks to the group's 
 adherence to song lengths that hew closely to a three-minute average.

 When Audiobulb released a CD by Hans van Eck (see Vital Weekly 679) I was pleasantly surprised. Not only 
 because it was something by someone I knew from a long time ago (his music, not the man), but also because 
 it was so different than what the label put out so far. With The Hole Punch Generation they step out of their 
 usual routine (if Audiobulb would have or care about such things) again, but going in an altogether different 
 routine. The Hole Punch Generation is a trio of Patrick Balthrop (vocals, guitar, synth), Caleb Epps (bass, synth,
 live video) and Adam Sturtevant (drums), who are from Boston and they are around since five years. 
 Apparently they also use Supercollider, Max/msp, Reaktor, toy pianos, field recordings and sound designs 
 'chopped up live using Monomes', but despite all of that I must say I find this all very hard to hear on this album. 
 'A thick emotional stew of electronic and shoegaze elements. Think Radiohead, Sigur Ros and Coldplay', the 
 label says. Now Coldplay I never liked - old man's music for young people, the Sigur Ros influence I may not 
 hear very well, but I can certainly hear elements of Radiohead here. I can see that, but do I like it? Sometimes
 I do play a bit of Radiohead ('Kid A' is my favorite still), but The Hole Punch Generation seems to have pushed
 the electronic to such a level we don't hear it anymore, or just not well enough. That I think is a pity, since it
 leaves with a nice album of more or less standard shoegazing rock music. Yes, not what one would expect
 from a label like Audiobulb. Hearing that over the christmas period with nothing much else to do than reading a 
 book, drinking coffee and other such lazy activities, this is actually highly enjoyable. Not my cup of tea as such, 
 but just as I like that Radiohead album every now and then, The Hole Punch Generation provides that nice 
 antidote in listening routines.

 If there’s one ‘style’ or genre that is even more diverse than post-rock, it’s shoegaze. Shoegaze has always 
 been hard to pin down.  It references noise, daydreams, and hazy youth with an abstract psychedelia that 
 displaces the mind through free-flow currents of distortion. Within these waves we might find images, 
 emotions, and memories; small, fragile voices singing in whispers among a high-voltage deluge of static, calling
 from the unconscious in all their androgynous perfection. Perhaps shoegaze is something not “done from the
 heart” but from the mind, blasting the body away with amplifier thunder. The remains are vague, a surrealist
 reminiscence that is brought forth as nightmare (Pyramids, Nadja) or something brighter (Cocteau Twins, My 
 Bloody Valentine), although the borders between each are constantly fading and reappearing. In their debut, 
 The Hole Punch Generation wanders close to these borders, trying to maintain a straight line in a place where
 there are none.

 This ‘from the heart’ approach yields a music that is tightly held back and tightly instrumented, always under 
 control. Anxiety is the main theme, thrown into our ears at the beginning of “Don’t Go”, when the singer cries 
 those words in a sweet, high-pitched voice while the guitars build up a very thin wall of distortion. The 
 recurring sadness seeps through into the myriad electronic details that fill up the music, augmenting the impact 
 of the voice in a very subtle way as its melodies combine with polyphonic echo effects and keyboard harmonies.

 Elements like these are partly absent from the rest of the instruments, rendering the guitar work and the drums 
 as pretty straightforward. It seems as though the music is led by the voice & keys, inverting the terms of both 
 shoegaze and rock, maybe on purpose or maybe not. Unfortunately, it's not done in a way that is interesting 
 enough to make the listener want to join in and follow the trail of cloudy heartbreak. Instead, it comes across
 as just a rock album with distant, androgynous singing. It's too bodily and ordered, its emotional inflections too
 traditionally ‘honest’ to be compared with the work of the aforementioned bands. Most tellingly, songs like 
 “Shallow” and “Conversations” wouldn’t be too out of place on an indie/alternative rock radio station. There's 
 nothing wrong with this; it's just not our style.

 I believe The Hole Punch Generation has some great ideas that could let them explore those very same feelings 
 of despair in a more genuinely creative way. There are too many rock bands in the world, and too few of them 
 mine the shoegaze vein in a significant manner. I hope that the band is willing to push its limits and conventions,
 because it seems very capable of doing so, but it doesn't yet seem to have found the drive or motivation. In any 
 case, this is a debut, and a bright future likely awaits. 

 Ik houd er wel van als een band verwarring zaait. Ongemakkelijk op je stoel zitten en toch gegrepen worden 
 door “iets”. Dat gevoel bekruipt me ook direct bij de gelijknamige cd van The Hole Punch Generation. De groep uit
 het Amerikaanse Boston, bestaande uit Patrick Balthrop (zang, gitaar, synthesizers), Caleb Epps (bas, 
 synthesizers) en Adam Sturtevant (drums), brengt een mix aan verschillende stijlen, waardoor je in eerste
 instantie niet goed weet waar je nu precies naar aan het luisteren bent. Op redelijk onstuimige wijze brengen 
 ze shoegazermuziek, die ingekleurd wordt met singer-songwritermuziek, psychedelische elementen, wave, 
 pop, break beats en jaren 70 elementen. Zo krijg je naast gruizige elektrische gitaren ook veelvuldig 
 melancholische akoestische, zoals de Cranes of Serenes dat ook altijd zo mooi hebben gedaan. Bij de 
 opzwepende beats is het even of Roni Size meedoet en de lichte synthesizermuziek/pop doet wel enigszins 
 aan Alan Parsons of soms zelfs Roxy Music denken. Maar dat zijn dus precies die elementen die de muziek een
 bevreemdend en soms ongemakkelijk karakter geven, naast de experimentele geluiden in het overwegend 
 toegankelijke geheel. Want ze zitten met hun totale geluid eigenlijk in een heel ander vaarwater. Ze komen met 
 hun heerlijk melancholische mix van elektronisch en akoestisch geluid en hoge, licht mysterieuze zang eerder in 
 de buurt van Sigur Rós, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, M83, Faultline en Ben Christophers. En hoe vaker je naar dit 
 geweldige debuut luistert des te meer de ongewone liedjes onder je huid kruipen. De ietwat ongewone 
 kruisbestuiving glijdt er dan steeds eenvoudiger in zonder ooit gewoon te worden. Dan kun je enkel concluderen 
 een bijzonder schoon werk in handen te hebben.
 Audiobulb Is an exploratory music label designed to support the work of innovative artists. 

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