While more straightforward than his works as 8prn and less flashy than his two Hybridity releases from last year, I Want to Believe finds Patrick Holland making the strongest, most economical tunes of his career. He uses the breezy atmosphere of these disco and funk-inflected house tunes to his advantage, making sure the elements that sustain it are always purposeful and part of a larger, cohesive whole. The synth pads are at the forefront of doing all this: they swell to establish a mood on a track like “In the Mat” but also function to counteract the whimsical string stabs on “Follow it Up” before they eventually converge into a thick groove. The mixing on the album is crucial too, propelling tracks like “Why, Though?” and “Always” forward through sound design alone.
Interestingly, Holland was inspired by “ultra-real types of smoothness” a la George Benson, Sade, and Steely Dan’s Aja when making this record. Those artists are often pigeonholed as cheesy and trite but there’s a sincerity to them that makes listeners vulnerable and engage with their music wholeheartedly. So be it the confidence that you’ve found a new, bigger love on Benson’s “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You”, a picture of love as a support system and everlasting friendship in Sade’s “By Your Side”, or trying to overcome disenchantment with the world in Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues”, it’s ultimately an unabashed belief in what they’re saying and doing that makes their songs so immersive, even when there aren’t any lyrics. I Want to Believe adopts similarly smooth instrumentation—the guitar plucks on “Sky Lounge”, the interjecting horns on “Movin’ Out"—but it’s Holland’s commitment to this laid-back, carefree aesthetic that makes these tracks so cozy.