(Personal Archives, 2016)
At times evoking billowing ambient artists like those appearing on the Inner Islands label (Channelers, Braeyden Jae) and at others hewing closer to the atmospheric electronic post rock favored by netlabels like Austria’s Laridae (Microtonner, Iambic, Rooftop Access), Knoxville’s one-man project Dead Man’s Lifestyle – aka Jacob Alexander Watkins – covers a broad swath of stylistic territory that feels both lived-in and exploratory. That pretty much just means he feels free to do whatever he wants within his own personal idiom, and he succeeds at making music that’s a pleasure to listen to no matter what path he treads down. It’s Dead Man’s Lifestyle’s world, and he’s gonna live in it as best he can.
This also means we’re in for a pretty serious record, what with the cold, black-and-white rocky shoreline photography on the cover, the tracks’ evocation of specific place infused with nostalgia. We here at Critical Masses can be a serious bunch if we need to, so Hinterland hits the right spot on a number of occasions. You sort of get the best of all worlds here, as at times we’re blanketed by gorgeous tones (“Die By Night,” “Titled”) while at others there’s a cold distance represented in electronic beatscapes (“Calamity Stomp,” “Bovice Don’t Pay for Change,” “Night”). But yeah, it’s all wide-eyed and serious – and seriously engaging for the dreamer and lamenter at once.
The record can be best summed up by “Fog on Briny Beach,” the album-opening meditation that encapsulates the feelings of all that’s about to come and processes the disparate elements within it as a euphonic intro. Through its tones you can feel cold rocks at water’s edge on your feet, breathe in the chill air of late November, and smell the sea and surrounding forest. Or maybe it’s best summed up by “Night,” which closes the album on a decidedly downer electronic note, a cold, crisp reminder that everything ends. Look at me, not deciding on Dead Man’s Lifestyle’s representative qualities! Let’s just leave it and say that it’s all representative, and Hinterland is a song cycle of great physical space and emotional depth. Spend a while in it and see.