It would be spectacularly easy (and/or incredibly lazy) to label Daniel Blumberg’s latest creation, ‘Minus‘, as pretentious or self indulgent, a mere project of vanity. On paper, it could be hard to disagree: long improvisatory passages of pure noise, a very flexible approach to structure that often pushes into atonality and complete loss of any recognisable rhythmic or melodic structure, large amounts of repetitive lyrics… The list goes on.
However, take note of the opening sentence of this very review and how passing it off as such would be lazy and easy. In order to be able indulge yourself into what could be one of the most genuinely deep musical experiences of the century so far, the first thing you’re going to have to do is entirely change how you think about music. Admittedly, that does sound like a rather tall order for us to make of you dear reader, but please do hear me out on this one.
It would be simplest to think of ‘Minus‘ less as a musical creation and more as an entirely blank canvas, replacing paints with audio. Through this seven track journey, we are taken into Daniel’s world, a place of pain and complete disarray. Recorded live in just five days during a remote residential stay in Wales, in the midst of what is evidently a truly heartbreaking breakup with his partner of seven years, combined with the sudden death of a childhood friend and Blumberg’s own struggles with his mental health which led to his hospitalisation a mere week before the five day recording process, the background knowledge of what conceived this creation only deepens the experience.
To allow others into the artistic representation of one’s personal anguish on such a profound scale is an extraordinarily brave move as a musician, as any form of criticism becomes immediately entirely personal, with no shield between critic and creator. The risk pays off in this case and, even after repeated listens, I find it impossible to find a single flaw with what is on offer. Through this review, there has been very few mentions of individual tracks, as I feel any form of analysis would only mar the personal listening experience and what can be taken away or felt upon allowing yourself to become lost in Daniel’s most personal moments. However, what I will say is that this is not an album to just pop on as background material. Instead, I implore you as a listener to treat this as a theatrical or cinematic experience. Dim the lights, pour yourself a beverage, get yourself comfortable and shut out the world for a while. Listen without distraction and with an open mind to what is about to come your way.
To summarise, this is an album that will divide those who hear it and perhaps even push the boundaries of what many of us come to expect from music, particularly that based around Western scales and musical rules.
In my eyes though, what can be found here is nothing short of a masterpiece and an easy contender for my personal album of the year, perhaps even bordering on pushing its way into my top albums of all time.