DOUGLAS DARE – ” Caroline “

Posted: February 15, 2015 in MUSIC
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Douglas Dare is a pianist and singer who has worked with percussionist and producer Fabian Prynn to create, on his debut album “Whelm”, a series of mournful ballads, some of them wholly unadorned, others set in a rather more glitchy and electronic context  He can sound deeply old-fashioned and utterly contemporary, like Elton John one minute and James Blake the next. Some of the songs could be latterday versions of John compositions with Bernie Taupin, others are in more of an Antony and the Johnsons vein. Occasionally, alarm bells ring when Dare starts to sound like an only slightly superior Tom Odell. Other times, his trad impulses and more extreme, experimental tendencies come together, as on a track like Lungful, and the results are quite distinctive and strikingly new.

Dare’s album, Whelm, was recorded in Mark “Flood” Ellis’ studio Assault & Battery in West London, not by the New Order and Nine Inch Nails producer, but by Prynn, who engineered, produced and mixed the whole thing. Something about the studio must have seeped into the recording because Whelm has the dark majesty and grandiosity – even when the music is quiet – of many of the bands Flood has worked with such as Depeche Mode, Sigur Ros and a-Ha; some of their windswept ambience and desolate beauty. Lyrically, Whelm is often written from other people’s perspectives, with some of the songs based on historical events. London’s Rose, for example, came from a poem Dare wrote about the use of underground stations as bomb shelters during WWII. Whitewash concerns the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland while Clockwork was inspired by the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient analog computer found in the ocean.

But these events and the imagery they evoke are really just prisms through which Dare filters his own personal feelings, which, funnily enough (because we were talking about Flood), have a lot to be with the paradoxical dread and desire to be engulfed. “I wanted to make a record that would allow the listener to escape, something lush and immersive but when looked at closely, the grit and depth could be found,” he has said, referring to “the restless nature of humans and the erratic emotions I’d written about [that] could be linked to water and more specifically the sea.” Dare grew up on the Dorset coast: “The sea was this constant thing in my life,” he explained. “And although I felt an affinity with it, I couldn’t swim until I was a teenager. This equal measure of joy and uncertainty I found in both people and water brought me to Whelm; it feels like a fitting title. To be engulfed. To be buried. To be whelmed.” Dare’s music, at its best, is immersive and allows you to share his mixed emotions. Dare dares you to dive in.

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