Whelm by Douglas Dare is an album I have come to adore and love. Since I’ve received it, I have found the simplicity of the music and the clarity of Dare’s voice utterly beguiling.
Talking of his voice, for me there are great parallels with a certain Jeff Buckley – the emotion, the tone and so on. Whilst he may not reach the falsetto heights of Buckley, he comes close. His vocal acrobatics are certainly of the same high calibre. Just listen to the middle of opening track Clockwork and you’ll see what I mean.
Nile comes next, and it’s probably up there with being one of the most depressing sounding love songs ever written. In terms of structure it’s the opposite of In-between Days by The Cure, which is a happy sounding track with dark lyrics. This is the opposite, and it is supremely beautiful.
“I, I’d sale down the river Nile/Just to keep you alive and well” is one of the codas of the song, and it will tug at your heart strings.
Hailing from London, Whelm is Dare’s first release and it’s on Erased Tapes. As you progress through the album you’ll be glad that you find the label’s name deeply ironic.
A battered and bruised piano takes centre stage alongside Dare’s voice, and it is one of the elements, aside from his vocals, that grab you by the proverbials. Each track is brilliantly supplemented by electronic beats that come courtesy of Fabian Prynn, who also takes roles such as percussionist, producer and mixer. Busy lad.
Unrest marks a slight change in the feel of the album by being primarily electronic and percussion based, especially at the start. The stark and dark first minute or so is bathed in claustrophobic near-industrial beats, and then comes in the piano which adds an atmosphere of anxiety, which is further built on by double tracked vocals.
The beats return with a vengeance on Swim following the predominant return of the piano. It’s perhaps these tracks that add a layer of sophistication to the album. By adding these tracks it gives something else for Dare to play off. By not relying upon one kind of instrument, his talent and ability to sing over anything from a piano based ballad to something harsher and darker shine through.
Closing track London’s Rose is one such piano based ballad that is a gorgeous way to close an album. After realising how good Condemned to Rock ‘n’ Roll was/is as an album closer back when I was a wee nipper, I have always wanted albums I really, really like to have a closer of epicness. I am not and was not disappointed. It’s solely a piano backed track, and it’s a pure way for Dare to show what he is made of.
I would highly recommend this to anyone, and it made my phone a long time ago. At least relatively speaking.