In the current climate of superhero blockbusters, it’s arguably refreshing to have a film centered upon the real life choices of someone dedicated to rescuing those from the realities of a society lingering in the depths. And going purely by the sonic palette for the soundtrack that accompanies filmmaker Steve Hoover's documentary Almost Holy, you would easily be forgiven for assuming it’s a straight-up horror film, which in many respects, it is. It focuses on the life and work of Pastor Gennadiy Mokhnenko, who has taken it upon himself to rescue and rehabilitate children from the neglect, abuse, and violence that have plagued the streets of Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union. It’s hardly surprising then that Hoover employed the talents of Oscar-winning composer Atticus Ross, his brother Leopold, and the U.K.’s very own Bobby Krlic (otherwise known as the Haxan Cloak); all musicians proven capable of creating music that encapsulates a sense of discomfort. A definite highlight is the track "Punching Bag." Initially a mixture of louring ambience, the piece eventually morphs into a half-inspired techno track with buried percussion before seemingly disappearing and lifting again with pulsating beats. Ending with a burgeoning guitar riff, swimming among a beautiful concoction of reverb and wobbling synthesized bass notes, it’s definitely a staple of the album. "Wild Moose" is a wonderful track that could almost be described as (for lack of a better term) Gennadiy’s theme song. Its use of texture, strings, bass, and layered synths greatly envelops the idea of reminiscence and the protagonist’s sense of duty. Whereas the Ross brothers encapsulate atmosphere with a more accessible structure, Krlic has gone for his familiar territory of pure ambience and drone, as evident in "Intervention." Composed of gloomy, delayed drum rhythms and searing ominous tones, it’s a welcome reminder that there can be something very musical within noise. This is not to say that Krlic totally abandons the use of harmony; "Pharmacies" gives us a progression of four solemn notes on a violin layered upon a similar sequence, with the latter being more textural and dense, an occasional distant drum beat, and effects of swirling distortion. The Ross brothers are skilled with this, too. "Mokhnenko" provides more a sense of melody and harmony, again transformed with heavy use of reverb alongside sputtering hi-hats and a secluded drum pattern. The same goes with "Distance," a piece consisting of ominous sounds, somewhat like electricity arcing, and a rumbling bassline gradually climbing toward the top of the mix. The film ultimately results in a reminder never to take our comfortable lifestyles for granted, whereas the score keeps you in an unfamiliar place, confronting you with its aural dread and the frightening sense that there are indeed places in the world that are far from our familiar lives. As an album in itself, Almost Holy is a fantastic piece of electronic music, capably transcending harmony and noise with some interesting ambience.
AllMusic Review by Rob Wacey