David August, on his new record D’ANGELO, has served up a dizzyingly simple blend of noirish soundscapes, gothic rock, early electronic music and Ibiza chillout sounds that ultimately results in fresh, deeply engaging sound. He lists himself as a producer and a composer, and you could realistically add ‘visionary’ to that list.
The sound itself is tough to categorise, especially owing to the variety of sounds that he blends together – yet the whole record seems to be seamless in execution, mixing an orchestral scope with a kinetic, club energy. It’s a fascinating idea. It’d be closer to ‘goth’ than any other genre, especially because everything on the record sounds like it was recorded with Twin Peaks in mind. Wherever you put Chromatics in your mental catalogue, this will go right alongside them.
Yet more fascinating is the apparent backstory to the album: the press release mentions influences from across the artistic spectrum. Firstly, he mentions that the town he grew up in – Palestrina (just outside of Rome) - as being incredibly important in helping him infuse emotional, sentimental weight into his compositions. He also says that D’ANGELO’s ‘spiritual’ inspiration is drawn primarily from Italy’s artistic heritage, and how certain artists “broke boundaries”, such as Italian master Caravaggio. The album was made, in part, as an homage to the painter’s use of light and shade in his glorious masterpieces.
There are more than a few moments of equivalent beauty here: the masterful “TRUE HEART” is kohl-black goth-rock with a beautifully romantic edge. Like Cold Cave doing Echo & The Bunnymen at half-speed. In a David Lynch movie.
Then there’s the gleaming, smoothly seductive “33CHANTS”, which mixes psychedelic chimes with thudding club beats. The noir-disco of the title track is much in the same vein, with an achingly slow build – it sounds halfway between the crisp edges of Kraftwerk and the scummy stench of Suicide. It’ll make you wish that this sound was explored in much greater detail: it’s amongst the finest six minutes of cerebral club music you’ll hear all year.
Album centrepiece “THE LIFE OF MERISI” – which clocks in at over nine minutes – is a masterpiece, the second on the album. It’s constructed with maximum tension in mind – August's voice floats over a relentless but restrained motorik beat, while various goth rock signifiers howl in and around the central aural line, forming a grotesque sonic miasma. There’s Bauhaus/Stooge-ian sax, Cure-esque guitar and a sense of scope Trent Reznor would be proud of.
Despite a preposterous ‘concept’, D’ANGELO is a success. It will undoubtedly find fans, as it offers something that’s borderline essential for soundtracking nights out in a modern urban dystopia: something real. Something tangible. Something pure. Something that sounds like our everyday lives, our commutes and our headaches.
The only slight downside is that there just simply is not enough of this album to make a lasting impact – at seven songs, it needs a second disc of remixes, reworks or extended versions to make it the project it deserves to be. It could have ended up on album of the year lists if were only twenty minutes longer. Sadly, it may not even get the coverage it deserves as it is.