Though he’s said that he doesn’t set out to make “difficult” music, Dean Blunt certainly hasn’t made much easy over the course of his career. Both as one-half of the shadowy duo Hype Williams and under his own name, the London-based art-pop provocateur has spent the better part of the last half decade turning out dense keyboard drones, giving intentionally obtuse and combative interviews, and putting on bizarre performance art live shows. But with his latest full-length, it seems he’s finally decided to open up, to highlight a love for pop music that’s always been somewhere underneath the found sound samples and sub-bass firebombs.
The material Blunt has released since he cut ties with Hype Williams collaborator Inga Copeland has hewed closer toward pop song structures. And it’s clear even from the opening strains of album opener “Lush”—a straightforward sample of Big Star’s sunny-eyed strummer “For You”—that Black Metal is a whole lot more welcoming than past records have been. Blunt pairs Big Star’s orchestral sweep with a slowly plodding rhythm section, his own deadpan vocals, and some lazily picked electric guitar parts that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Kurt Vile record. “Molly & Aquafina”‘s narcotized Americana and “100”, which employs a sample of the Pastels’ “Over Your Shoulder”, similarly value clarity and directness, two qualities absent from much of his preceding work.
Even as he jumps from those indie pop touchstones to the genre exercises on the record’s second side—the imploded dub of “Punk”, “Hush” and “Grade”‘s dizzy rap deconstructions, the pair of occasionally frigid ambient tracks that make up a 20-minute block at the record’s middle—Blunt is able to keep their knotty worlds relatively accessible. Pinned together by a series of keyboard drones, “Forever” and “X” both employ distant vocalizations from recurring collaborator Joanne Robertson as an easy point of entry amidst their occasionally abstract spheres. These are light moments, airy passages function mostly to separate the lilting first half of the record from the bleak second. But where Blunt would have once used lengthy drone passages to project alienation, here they function as a seam between the two otherwise disjointed album segments.
All of Blunt’s work to date—if you’re willing to consider his bizarre public character as part of that work—has been wrapped up in questions of identity. He’s constantly concealing personal details and controlling the discourse about him to an apparently paranoid degree, and his sonic persona, shaped by distinctly gnarled postmodern experimentation, is as hard to pin down as his image. So what does it mean that for those questions now that he’s appearing on the covers of glossy magazines and making pop songs? He’s at once a folk pop troubadour and a downcast dub vocalist—a staid ambient composer and a gruff grime MC. He’s everything all at once, or maybe he’s not much of anything at all. As with everything he does, Black Metal offers few definitive answers, but this time around the hazy images he’s projecting have come into sharper focus.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/14xoQhs