Format: 12" Import
Format: 12" Import
Stephane Sévérac’s “Hold On” is one of those obscure slices of pop history whose memory was preserved by the deep diving balearic heads of the world. It’s hard to find much information about this one, other than the track was first released in 1987 as a 7” single on Germany’s Zeppelin Records and as a 12” maxi with a jaw dropping extended mix on France’s Carrere. Luckily, this latter version has been officially licensed and remastered for release on the new reissue label Blaos Records and the package also includes the edited single mix and an additional track “Dreams” (which originally backed “Hold On” on both the 7” and 12” versions). The extended cut of “Hold On” is, simply put, a masterpiece of emotionally affecting 80s pop, with a confident and charismatic vocal performance backed by smooth seaside guitars, lustrous strings, and sensual saxophone warmth.
The extended mix of “Hold On” is the star of the show here, starting with a breezy tropical glide colored by soft organs, surfy echo riffs, and jangling chords. Sunshine seems to emanate from every note and the vibe is made all the more majestic and fantastic by deep swelling string synths and the entrance of crisp boom-bap rhythms. We hit an early climax as a sultry saxophone solo teases out the main vocal melody and when Stephane’s voice finally enters, the song fully takes off, now led by a hypnotizing and incredibly powerful croon covered in subtle reverb and delay fx. Every repeat of the “Hey Baby!…I’m just trying to hold on” refrain is backed by feminine gospel voices, the kind of angelic magic that J. Spaceman would perfect in Spiritualized at least a decade later and it’s so easy to get lost in the downer pop cycles and the stories of lost romance, surrounded as they are by hushed synth leads and bright guitar interplay. There is an extended bridge where things break down and the vocals float under choppy echoes, but then we explode into an electrifying saxophone solo, all blazing blues leads reaching towards the sky through beautiful clouds of synthetic orchestration. And following this, we return once more to the vocal dominated passages, becoming totally lost in the irresistible pop delirium.
The strange progressive pop of “Dreams” comes next, led by clicking cymbals and a swampy kick drum. During the dark and propulsive verse, basslines are backed by skronking horns and in the lead up to the chorus, there is a harsh panning conversation between metallic and industrial synth fx. Once the chorus drops, the vibe turns slightly sinister and sexual, with hues of shadowy post-punk hovering alongside hints of glam, especially as the growling basslines dance below feverish organs and soaring, nearly operatic vocals. Any empty space in the mix is filled by string synths cycling through majestic melodies that sometimes follow the vocals and add to their intoxicating strength. But at other times, the strings seem to work against the melodic flow, creating a swirling madness, the whole thing like prog rock filtered through the drugs and anxiety of the 1980s. The B-side also contains the 7” single version of “Hold On,” wherein we lose the seaside introduction and flash right into a shortened version of the blissed out intro sax solo. Similarly, the anthemic sax fireworks at the center of the track hit immediately after the chorus rather than following a bridge and breakdown dominated by echoing vocals. But even so reduced, the song still manages to radiate a powerful and narcotic warmth.