(Dagger Forest, 2015)
I won’t pretend to have the pulse of the underground London electronic scene or its cassette culture (I know more about the French in this regard, for some inexplicable reason), especially sitting here in my beach chair on the sunny old Florida coast, but I know a good tune when I hear one. I’ve got that much going for me. Plus, I did live in London for a time, and even though that was a few years ago, I don’t think I’ll ever shake its hold on me. It was truly a golden age.
Dagger Forest is a newish label based in London, specializing in “experimental” and “dark pop,” and if you know London at all, especially London in the dead of winter, you know that “dark pop” pretty much sums up the vibe on the street. It’s cold, it’s damp, the gray sun sets in the cloudy sky at 4:30pm. Makeup, a downtempo electronic producer, grabs that vibe by the throat and doesn’t let go, filling his debut cassette release with chilled ambience, sullen beats, and pitch-shifted vocals that punctuate the insomniac 2:00am haze of the city streets. Makeup originally released Divine Fashion as an EP, but it’s appended here with b-sides and extra cuts to flesh out the tape. It’s a nice collection.
The initial EP – the first six tracks – serves as the artist’s statement, a moody take on pop music in slow motion and sort of hovering about fifteen feet in the air. It won’t give in to gravity in any way, and that’s good – a heightened sense of ethereality is necessary for tunes like these to succeed. And succeed they do – I daresay I’m even more impressed with the back end, as tracks like “Crystal Faces” and “Fuck Labels” function without additional vocals to do the exact same thing. The presence of songs like these haunt your subconscious in the day-to-day, and serve as a reminder of shadow realities that lurk just on the periphery.
So yeah, whatever, I’m not immersed anymore, if I ever even was by proximity, but I can appreciate what Makeup is going for here. It’s a nice start, and a good introduction to Dagger Forest. I’ll be keeping one eye affixed across the pond for new releases, that’s for sure.
RIYL: BODYGUARD / BEBETUNE$, Mascara, Burial