Now, it is no secret that I am a big fan of Daniel Blumberg’s recorded output as a solo artist over the last two and a half years. One album and one EP have been and gone, both sweeping up a five star scoring and landing themselves in my top five releases of their respective years (in fact, his 2018 release ‘Minus‘ was joint for first place, alongside Cosmo Sheldrake’s seminal ‘The Much Much How How And I‘). However, we don’t dish out scores here at In Key Magazine, in a very sneaky attempt to make sure nobody skims over the review and straight to the final score (which I of course have NEVER done… *ahem*…), so it’s my job to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to MacBook, for this is the modern age) and give you my thoughts on Mr. Blumberg’s third release, an EP entitled ‘On&On&On‘, released on Mute Records.
It’s fair to say that this particular gentleman, previously an Indie scene darling of Yuck fame, now a student of London’s infamous Cafe Oto and solo artist, has certainly moved away from his easy on the ear guitar based exploits into a whole new sonic ball park. Combining the traditional melancholy Singer/Songwriter tropes with a more experimental mindset, pushing into the borders of Noise music and occasionally slipping into moments that even your more open minded music fanatic may well describe as unlistenable, it’s certainly an acquired audible taste. This time around though, over a relatively modest twenty-seven minutes of play time spanning six tracks, it seems like Daniel has created what feels like an entryway into his very unique sound.
This is not to say that it’s by any means an average EP of ‘sad white boy fodder’ (a rather scathing opinion I was offered by somebody I was conversing with, before they had even got to the end of his debut’s self-titled opening track) or depressing songs sung with an acoustic guitar and a violin knocking out some notes in the back, we’ve already got Passenger’s lower end work for that (don’t get me wrong, I simply adore Passenger, but he has been responsible for one or two bits of miserable dirge alongside his usual stunning output). There’s still complexity and depth aplenty to be found within I must hasten to add. The dissonance of the reverberant and frankly disturbing soundscape behind the cracked vocals in ‘Silence Breaker‘ and the syncopated rhythmic structure and stings that rattle, brimming with atonal chaos before the band snap back together, delivering stunning melodies and harmonious voices that have an almost angelic quality and back again, only to melt into following song ‘On&On&On‘, which can only be described as darkly serene.
However, it’s just beyond the mid-point when we get to ‘Bound‘, which veers right off of the beaten track and onto something a lot more familiar in terms of musical territory. It follows a steady tempo, a mostly linear rhythm and, even with the subtle familiarity of experimentalism buried far deeper in the mix and with even more delicate subtlety than we’ve come to expect. It’s still got a slightly abnormal rough edge to it’s first half, which ascends into something tuneful, upbeat and baring an air of genuine hope to it. It’s the polar opposite in the usual shift in gears, moving out of the strange and into the more traditionally pleasing to the ear, but it only goes to show just how much mastery Daniel Blumberg and his band have over their respective crafts.
All in all, this is just another stunning addition to an already stellar, albeit it still relatively small catalogue of creation, which is very likely to end up back in the top spots for my personal albums of the year once more, if not the very best (and after my beloved Green Day’s absolute fucking abomination of an album this year, I really did need something to remind me to have faith in the artists I love again) and, with perhaps a little explanation ahead of listening, could well be one of the best pathways into the weird and wonderful world of Daniel Blumberg and beyond.
In Summary: An absolute masterclass in contemporary songwriting, that pushes the boundaries with more subtlety and finesse that previous release, with moments of exquisite traditionally audibly musical beauty. A modern classic in the making.