Soulfully articulated, machine-driven melancholia from rising south Londoner.
Mike Diver 2013
As musical identities go, south London-based Daniel Woolhouse’s isn’t the most instantly appealing choice.
Deptford probably doesn’t leap to mind when pondering London’s most vibrant cultural corners; and all things (musically) goth have, generally, been marginalised by the mainstream since the mid-80s successes of Sisters of Mercy and All About Eve.
Get over that moniker, though, and the reality of Woolhouse’s solo material is rather different to alias-instigated expectations.
The man himself has explained this as “somewhere between real and synthetic”, and Life After Defo never completely hides its human heart behind electronic artifice.
This is electro-pop with palpable emotion possessing its fizzing keys, guided by a vocal performance that underplays the fraught feelings found on the lyric sheet.
Further plays pull the senses into Woolhouse’s world, where walls dissolve and pigeonholes become meaningless – until the sensation is one reserved for discovering the very best new acts around.
Deptford Goth didn’t top many tips-for-2013 lists, but Life After Defo is undoubtedly a collection to compare favourably with anything by the current hot-right-now crowd.
The key to this artist’s success is the consistency of his vision. Preceding singles Union and the title track might have painted a picture of pervading gloom courtesy of arrangements that crawled; but even within those downbeat previews resided whispers of optimism. Union, in particular, carries sanguinity beside somewhat sorrowful sonics.
And across Life After Defo’s 42 minutes, Woolhouse skilfully balances this muted joy, expressed exclusively in hushed tones, with music that melds ghostly RnB with lo-fi bedroom production.
It’s a little like How to Dress Well might sound if Tom Krell had grown up in the shadow of the DLR. It certainly matches said artist’s pointed poignancy.
Years blooms into glorious colour a handful of times, the contrast between its chorus reds and verse monochrome skilfully realised.
Elsewhere, there’s something (oddly?) reminiscent of Paul Simon about Guts No Glory – it’s this set’s most distinctly organic moment, and one of its most touching, too.
Some may find Life After Defo’s palette uncomfortably restricted. It certainly sticks to its strengths, its tempo is uniformly torpid.
But delight in soulfully articulated, machine-driven melancholia, and you’ve just found your album of 2013.