Busman's Holiday opens with audio taken from an iconic scene in John Boorman's Point Blank. Walker, played by Lee Marvin, has just been betrayed and left for dead by his accomplice Reese and his wife Lynne. Having survived the incident, he makes his way to Los Angeles with the intention of getting revenge. As the scene plays out, Walker's footsteps reverberate loudly, juxtaposing the calmness of Lynne's morning routine. Interestingly, these footsteps continue and become non-diegetic sound for images of Walker himself. It's effective as a means to build tension but also as a way to establish the unwavering one-track mind that defines Walker throughout the film. As a result, there seems no better way to start off Busman's Holiday. This record definitely sounds like the collaborative work of Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet but it's even more uniform in style and mood than The Abyss. It's a bit surprising considering the variety of sounds that both Drumm and Lescalleet have explored within the past year, let alone their entire careers, but these six tracks are far more potent for it. The result is a cohesive and ultimately better album, and Busman's Holiday ends up being an incredibly strong statement for both of these highly accomplished artists.
When the footsteps and film soundtrack that introduce the album cease, "The Hunt" explodes into electrifying noise. The reason this piece feels so powerful is the perceptible movement of these sounds in the mix. In albums like Purge, Sheer Hellish Miasma, and The Pilgrim, passages of harsh noise feel domineering because of their huge monolithic presence. Numerous components may contribute to an overall structure but the main effect is less a frenetic assault on the senses (as with the second track on Land of Lurches) and more an all-encompassing wall of sound that completely envelops the listener. From its moment of impact, "The Hunt" does very much the same thing. The general shape of its screeches and howls keeps the listener trapped inside but what makes the track particularly oppressive is its refusal to stay motionless. These buzzing drones move around the listener at a moderately slow pace, circling them like prey, and it adds greatly to the piece's ominous ambiance.
There are approximately ten seconds of silence before "The Hunt" ends and "Powerless" begins. Those ten seconds act as a chance to catch one's breath, and when the piece starts with a loud tone, one may assume that it'll rupture into something as equally raucous as the last track. But what starts shrill soon crumbles through fuzzy noise and into a static drone. The album's liner notes state that the record is "a meditation on the inner mental environments that one encounters and endures during times of work-related travel." I've consequently listened to this album numerous times while driving to work and "Powerless" has felt particularly effective in accomplishing that feeling. Through my car stereo, the smears of high-pitched tones overhead are the primary sounds that catch my ear. Aside from adding textural interest, they act to stimulate and direct my attention towards the stillness of the drone and the repetitive mechanical rhythms heard underneath. In turn, this makes me aware of the blankness of my thoughts during these periods of travel. It's something that presumably occurs as a way to distract myself from the banality of such an everyday event as well as the equally familiar workday that's to follow. Before long. the song gradually builds into something comfortably noisy and it slowly ushers me back into that empty state of mind.
"The Wait" bears a similar structure to "Powerless"—it first descends into a dark pit before clawing its way back out. It's the longest track on Busman's Holiday but its length feels justified as it allows the listener to feel the physicality of its rattling machines. Here, the clatter is at the forefront while the subtly shifting drones are in the service of accentuating its deep reverberations. This relationship is key as it magnifies how eerie these noises actually are. It's comparable to "Asking for the Initial Thing" from the eighth edition of This Is What I Do but more dynamic, nuanced, and dramatic. As a result, when the piece ends with a more prominent drone, it feels like a natural extension of the mood evoked by what came beforehand.
This eventually leads into "The Push", a track whose title presumably refers to the perceived stasis of the cacophony here. The piece consists of three large blocks of noise, the first of which is the longest and highest-pitched. This section also evolves the most elegantly; it's difficult to pinpoint the exact development of these noises unless one hears the beginning and end of this passage right after one another. The following sections are just as noisy but their individual components are "livelier" and less homogeneous. The sequencing here is important and it, along with other factors—the general sounds used in each part of the song, the decision to have complete silence before the final passage, the relative lengths of these three sections—all contribute to the effectiveness of the piece as a whole.
"Belligerence" comes next and it's most interesting for its spontaneity. While not exactly high-energy, there's a fierce unpredictability to how this piece progresses and it grants the song some intensity. Near the beginning of the track, a high frequency tone appears unopposed and it pierces the ear. Considering the sound palette of the previous tracks and the general density of their structures, it feels particularly refreshing at this point in the album. This tone pops up frequently throughout the song, juxtaposing roaring electronics at one point and low rumbles at others. At around the six minute mark, a buzzing noise starts to pan back and forth across both channels before abruptly halting. A burst of cloudy noise emerges, as if snapping all the previous sounds into place. The surrounding fog dissipates and the track soon ends.
Busman's Holiday concludes with what's perhaps its most surprising track. Both Drumm and Lescalleet have made incredibly "pretty" pieces before, both individually (Imperial Distortion, Shut In, Archaic Architecture) and together ("The Abyss"), but it's accomplished here in a way that's far more affecting. "Honest Toil" consists of a high-pitched tone, a shifting drone, and the sounds of various objects and machinery. It's all incredibly delicate and all these specific sounds—light tapping, miniature squeaks, the flipping of switches—are carefully organized as to sustain the track's child-like essence. These small sounds brings to mind moments in Keith Rowe and Graham Lambkin's Making A, though with a much sweeter tone (alternatively, a less saccharine Four Forms). One such example is an incredibly delightful moment at 2:54, when a tiny beep and ticking sound play harmoniously. Even when the rattling gets a bit noisy, the sustained sound of the other instruments help to maintain the piece's calming mood. A looping melody eventually appears and closes out the album on a nostalgic note. It may be too romantic for some but it feels appropriate both as a musical contrast to the previous tracks and as a final statement regarding the album's theme. Work is tiring and overwhelming but in the warmth of this final track comes encouragement from Drumm and Lescalleet to persevere.