|Douglas Dare — Whelm (2014)|
Douglas Dare — Whelm
≈•≈ Moody, minimalist elegance from London–based pianist and singer/songwriter on avant–garde Erased Tapes label. Whelm is a confident and well–defined musical statement that shows Douglas Dare has taken little time to hit the standard we’ve come to expect from Erased Tapes. It’s quite possible that he’ll eventually be viewed as one of the biggest names on the label.
≈•≈ If you’re looking for excitement then Dare is not your man, but his sung prose and poetry are encompassing if simple things are what matter to you.
Born: Bridport, Dorset
Location: London, UK
Album release: May 12th, 2014
Record Label: Erased Tapes (ERATP057CD)
01 Clockwork 4:30
02 Nile 4:38
03 Repeat 4:01
04 Caroline 4:49
05 Whelm 1:46
06 Unrest 3:47
07 Lungful 4:00
08 Whitewash 4:40
09 Swim 4:39
10 London’s Rose 4:50
℗ 2014 Erased Tapes
≈•≈ CD in Deluxe Cardboard Sleeve, incl. Album Download
≈•≈ plus 20~page lyric book ‘Nine Poems’
≈•≈ Douglas is the son of a piano teacher and he studied music at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Notable people connected with Bridport and the surrounding villages include rock singer P.J. Harvey, actor Martin Clunes, socialist musician Billy Bragg and musician and producer Simon Emmerson.
≈•≈ Douglas released his debut EP, Seven Hours on Erased Tapes in 2013 and toured Europe with label mate Ólafur Arnalds.
≈•≈ Douglas has just supported label mate Nils Frahm on his North American Tour.
≈•≈ Douglas Dare Composer, Instrumentation, Liner Notes, Lyricist
≈•≈ Peter Darlington Assistant Engineer
≈•≈ Adam Durbridge Assistant Engineer
≈•≈ Dusan Kacan Artwork
≈•≈ Kevin Metcalfe Mastering
≈•≈ Ross Moore Brass
≈•≈ Fabian Prynn Engineer, Instrumentation, Mixing, Producer
Review by Timothy Monger; Score: ****
≈•≈ With the spatial grandeur of his native Atlantic coast and the cinematic minimalism of a classic ECM recording, youthful London piano bard Douglas Dare delivers his striking debut LP, Whelm. Growing up in the coastal Dorset town of Bridport, Dare learned to play music from his piano teacher mother while absorbing the pastoral richness of the geography from his farmer father.
≈•≈ Fed on classical music, but drawn to artists like Radiohead, Rufus Wainwright, and PJ Harvey, he has taken an interesting path with his music, blending a spare avant~garde aesthetic with dark but often melodic songwriting. The sounds he introduced with 2013’s four~song EP Seven Hours were thoughtful and patient, taking their time to develop, yet ultimately engaging the listener.
≈•≈ Released a mere eight months later, Whelm expands upon his themes of history, nature’s severity, love, and loss, all sung in an intimate and richly tuneful voice.
≈•≈ The arrangements are complex and smart, but not unapproachable, as his piano is joined by the distinctive abstract percussion parts of producer and collaborator Fabian Prynn. Occasionally, glitchy electronic elements are introduced, like on the bleak, difficult “Unrest” and the desperate “Swim,” though even then, his piano remains focused in the mix. He is at his best on slightly more tuneful ballads like “Caroline” and the beautiful closer “London’s Rose,” but even the more challenging tracks will reward the patient listener with their clever structure and surprising moments of melodic clarity. It’s a careful and moody album, but fortunately, Dare has the grace to pull off his sonic and lyrical meanderings without devolving too deeply into self~conscious philosophizing or experimentation for its own sake, showing that he has both content and mystique to spare.
Artist Biography by Timothy Monger
≈•≈ Singer/songwriter Douglas Dare grew up in the small coastal town of Bridport in South West England. Encouraged by his mother, a piano teacher, he began composing music at a young age but didn’t take up songwriter until 2008 while at University in Liverpool. His elegantly moody, piano~based songs and haunting voice drew comparisons to artists like Thom Yorke and James Blake and eventually attracted the attention of London indie Erased Tapes who specialize in releasing avant~garde music. ≈•≈ After relocating to London, he signed with Erased Tapes and they issued his first EP Seven Hours in September 2013. An extensive tour with labelmate and similarly experimental artist Ólafur Arnalds followed before he returned home to begin work on his debut full length. Collaborating with percussionist and producer Fabian Prynn, Dare crafted the dark, intimate ten-song album Whelm, released in May 2014. (http://www.allmusic.com/)
Tristan Bath, April 14th, 2014 07:29
≈•≈ From Chris Martin to Regina Spektor, tinkling on the ivories has become irrevocably linked with mushiness and sappiness, to the extent that plonking out a few chords, singing and calling it beautiful now seems odiously lazy. Luckily, Tom Odell has brought the farce of society's immutably mushy love of the keyboard singer-songwriter to its nadir, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief, move on, and begin to rebuild — and Erased Tapes’ latest signing is perhaps the first of a new generation. The defining feature of Douglas Dare's music is this very understanding that beauty is erratic; that discord, dissonance and unease are as communicative as the traditional romance and comfortable opulence surrounding the piano, and indeed the idea of the singer-songwriter at large.
≈•≈ Originally from Bridport in Dorset, the London~based Douglas Dare is often highlighted as a wunderkind for singing and songwriting at 23, as if age is somehow linked to ability. Ignoring this fallacy, the songs on Dare's debut album, Whelm ache with a sort of moody emotion that young and old can have in common — wide~eyed, reflective and besotted with the way the world makes us feel. The record’s ten tracks often amount to little more than impassioned four minute musical meditations over which Dare yarns uniformly solemn poetry. Album closer 'London's Rose' paints a harrowing picture of uncertainty in the Underground as the narrator takes shelter during the Blitz, and the chord movement vaguely hints at pre~war jazz while a trumpet parps almost out of earshot.
≈•≈ More pensively, the opening 'Clockwork' sees him musing over a clock, ticking away while the revolving melody and growing tick~tock of the electronic percussion increasingly simulate the propulsion of the second hand. “Measure time but it will move / Hold it close but it won’t prove / Anything”. The relative lack of histrionics, and cultural rootlessness of Dare's music is almost daunting amidst today’s incessant revivalism amongst many singer~songwriters.
≈•≈ Erased Tapes — home to the likes of Nils Frahm and Ólafur Arnalds — was certainly a good choice for Dare. Besides some sense of a Western classical influenced aesthetic, the label's artists share little more than an adoration for melodic complexity, a penchant for styles unaffiliated with pop traditions, and an unashamed solemness. ≈•≈ His closest musical contemporary is perhaps James Blake, but these beats aren't slick and misty 'post~Dubstep' detritus, but rather mere jagged metronomic furniture for the keyboards. His singing voice too is robust despite its boyishness, never relying on any R&B vocal pyrotechnics to get its message across, electing for the underling's piercing nasal drawl that's served Beirut's Zach Condon and Rufus Wainwright so well.
≈•≈ Whelm is by no means littered with hooks and catchy melodies. Most likely, many of the tracks will even blur indiscernible from one to the other — yet this is vitally part of the album's artistic triumph. Perhaps it's an early education from his music teacher father that means Douglas Dare’s approach to melody is often cyclical, and distant from the cosy cadences of pop. As a result, the album gradually engulfs (or perhaps even 'whelms') the listener bit by bit.
≈•≈ 'Repeat' and 'Unrest' are built on arpeggiated riffs that race into nothingness, 'Swim' uses an (almost too) Thom Yorke~style synthetic beat and vocal combo to the create album's loudest climax, while 'Lungful' conversely barely moves from its opening stuttering chord pattern across its entire four minutes... The songs emerge quiet, then flutter cicada~like, and vibrantly for their brief lives before diminishing and passing away without drama. Ten~at~a~time though, they seep steadfast into the unconscious.
≈•≈ Fellow Bridportian PJ Harvey once said while recording her first album, Dry that she had thought it would also most likely be her last — “so I put everything I had into it”. Douglas Dare’s similarly giving everything he's got on his own debut. The relative simplicity of Whelm is a smokescreen for its emotional depth and complexity. ≈•≈ It's bittersweet, raw and honest, and — for the first time in a long while — it’s a piano singer album that’s not drowning in cliché. (http://thequietus.com/)
By Steven Johnson | posted on 11 May 2014 | Score: ****
By William Moss, 05 May 2014 | Rating: 8/10
By SAM WILLIS, May 8th, 2014
≈•≈ ‘Nile’ illustrates the extreme emotions humans go through as they fall in and out of love; the narrator exhibits a desperation to be loved by an unseen partner, Douglas sings in the refrain: “I’d sail down the river Nile/ Just to keep you alive and well”. ‘Caroline’ also centres on love and loss, where all that remains are “The letters that make up your name”. More at:
BY LAURENCE DAY, 08 MAY 2014, 13:30 BST | Score: 8.5/10
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|Douglas Dare — Whelm (2014)|