These days, too many musicians are afraid of silence. Cramming every available bar with wailing klaxons and jolting beats, music is about the hook, clambering and competing for our attention spans and hard-earned cash. Even if you avoid Psy and Flo Rida like the plague, you will be aware of their pulsing hyperactivity, screeching through the tinny speakers of passing cars. Trains clatter by, buses creak round corners, planes soar overhead leaving a drone behind in the slipstream. The constant chatter of life carrying on is turned up to 11. It’s a wonder, amid all that racket, that we ever have time to think.
The first time I listened to Deptford Goth’s Life After Defo, I was, fittingly, on a night-bus crawling down Deptford High Street in the early hours. With the metal shutters pulled down, and the cries of the market traders long tucked away in bed, it was eerily peaceful. As the streetlights conjured strange reflections on the misted bus windows, and the pulsing ambience of opener ‘Life After Defo’ crept into life, the music seemed to breathe with the sleeping city. Daniel Woolhouse creates a hypnotic soundscape awash with melancholia, permeated occasionally by the chime of a bell, a skitter of quickening rhythm, or a delicious burst of melody that dissipates as quickly as a disappearing siren tearing through the night.
Preceding single ‘Union’ sounds even better in its new surroundings, the light and shadow even more apparent and hyper-intensified. Woolhouse’s understated vocal performance brings whispers of optimism too, a sort of sanguine buoyancy that floats across the surface of the dulled-down gloom. ‘Lion’, as well, is beautifully sparse, with the occasional fraught piano chord making way for a raw guitar melody skipping across the haze. These are just the pinnacles, but every song seems to unearth rich sonic experimentation.
After every track, Woolhouse leaves a lingering silence before bursting back, oozing with the same R’n’B leanings – tinkering and reworking every single time. Listening to this record in full, it cyclically fades before returning with a new lucid efflorescence. Always coherent, Deptford Goth’s palette is finely tuned, balanced and most importantly, consistent. Although Life After Defo blooms into different richly vibrant colours and hues throughout, it always returns to the same familiar axis, comfortable to stick to its singular vision. Whilst some might find it a little restrained and perhaps limited in scope, the majority will see Woolhouse as incredibly self-assured in his own production ability. So he should be.
Bedroom production of damped down R’n’B is a crowded marketplace, yet you can’t help feeling that Deptford Goth brings something creative and exciting to it. In the same way as fellow London dwellers James Blake and Jai Paul’s music does, this album interrupts the pounding monotony with a moment for reflection. When many of the market stalls have shut down early for the day, or indeed gone out of business altogether, Deptford Goth will still be reeling in interest and doing a roaring trade. Life After Defo is a truly captivating debut, with a poignancy that lasts far beyond the first listen.