Last year saw the release of Dan Wallace’s cleverly crafted debut LP ‘Neon & Gold’ which was met by a love it or hate it audience. He’s back with his more profound and sometimes tumultuous follow up ‘Culture of Self’, an LP we at Glasswerk have been looking forward to hearing and to ‘picking the bones out of’ as it were!
Presented in a lavish looking and lyric coated tri-fold sleeve that depicts anything from crystal ball snow shakers to artery and vein-like tree branches, this album is as much of a quandary on the outer as it is within. And that’s no surprise considering DW boasts of influences that range from Shostakovich to Zappa! Let’s get on with it then, I can’t wait any more!
Opening the LP with what I feel is a cunningly albeit brief, preparatory instrumental track, DW hints at what is to intermittently follow, adjusting the listeners expectations as he surrenders to his susceptibility of classical composure, a side that is frequently and refreshingly revisited throughout. DWs vocal range and fluidity are matched effortlessly, only by his slinky instrumentation, mirroring a latter day Radiohead here and a sorely missed (on my part at least) Garlic there.
Constantly shifting from unpredictable arrangements and unexpected carnival-esque tangents, to barely recognisable moments echoing a ‘Dry’ era PJ Harvey, a Peeping Tom demeanour and certain Gomez ditties to more blatant sources of inspiration (surely), notably, anything from typical Kurt Weill, The Doors ‘Spanish Caravan and Beck’s ‘Tropicalia’.
This LP epitomises opulence in the writing and recording process of an album. Revisiting tracks and tweaking the construct, meddling with the melody and challenging any obvious approach to a track and its righteous path, DW and his music are as smart and imaginative as you like! So many elements are wondrous; the dually layered vocals, the pleasantly invasive strings and the coy yet immediate delivery, all entwined with an overall subtle complexity that adds extra magic to this LP.
And I’m not done yet!! Did I mention how awesome the lyrics are? They really shine for me. Thankfully and I feel necessarily included in the packaging for close inspection, the quirks that make up seven eighths of DWs genius can all be found within for every fellow wordsmith out there to relish. So if he’s so good, why haven’t we heard of him you might well ask! What can I say, I’m not the musical taste police am I, maybe the world just isn’t prepared for DW yet! But I implore you to investigate because every moment that goes by without recognition of this LP and the talent that created it, is a criminal moment. OOHHH!
picture by Joseph Derr