Douglas Dare - Seven Hours EP

8/10

After mutterings and fluttering on the internet, and the considerable radio rotation of ‘Seven Hours’, London’s Douglas Dare releases his inaugural EP on Erased Tapes. It serves as a four-track introduction to Douglas’s oeuvre, and Douglas himself, a musician very much launching off in to the deep end aged just 22.

The title track and opener is Douglas’s calling card – a combination of glitch, classical piano and single voice. Broken chords combine with a drum machine beat, before changing rhythmic tact with more bass and flutters of piano. ‘Scars’ creates a feeling of menacing and uncertainty, the sparse piano and offbeat handclaps adding an air of mystery as it lurks in the space, whilst the deep resonant booming of bass on ‘Lungful’ gives way to more Spartan piano, teetering on stops and starts, in a shadowy and haunting track.

Lyrically, he’s certainly not one for sugar-coating, extended metaphors, or telling a story. Like the music, the lyrics are concise, in short sentences and words, reading almost like verses of poetry. Purely literal and direct (“Don’t let them see you fail/I will not let you fail”) it augments the accompaniment perfectly, whilst the frankness and confessional nature speaks directly to the listener in an intimate way.

In contrast to the electronic rhythms, the piano on Seven Hours is overtly acoustic, sounding as though it’s been played in an echoey room with no carpets. Added to the sometimes lo-fi vocals, the slightly unpolished edge gives a feeling of intimacy and closeness. The Rufus Wainwright comparisons are unavoidable, but extend no further than a slightly nasal voice and the fact that both are pianists. Similarly James Blake – a drum machine and a piano yes, but Seven Hours is far more subtle and delicate than the full-blown glitch and grandiose dubstep one gets from James. Regardless though, these parallels are somewhat of an achievement in themselves for a debut EP.

Seven Hours is as bold as it is bare – the magic comes from simultaneously what’s there and what isn’t. It’s almost the perfect EP – four tracks of quiet reflection, taking the listener to the brink of something, and leaving them hanging there before returning to the real world. The opposite of a fanfare arrival, and all the more powerful for it.