I first caught wind of Daughn Gibson earlier this morning, when I heard a delightfully trancey live performance at Pitchfork’s unofficial music festival they were streaming on YouTube. Admittedly I was hoping that I’d catch Death Grips perform their set, alas it wasn’t meant to be as the timing of my little sister arriving to my college room and watching the Death Grips set uninterrupted could not have been more inconvenient. The woes of living in a privileged sector of Australia.
I digress, Gibson’s performance was captivating, albeit for the two minutes I watched of it. The minimalist set up of just two people, one person handling production and Gibson vocalizing was perfect for the ethereal music that the musician crafts.
It’s a careful choice of words when I say ‘craft’, because what Gibson does on his record All Hell is an infusion of classical music practices, experimental rock, a slight tinge of his country and soul past garnished with artful precision that turns it into more of a listening experience as opposed to a record.
I liken listening to Gibson to being in a smoky jazz cafe in a grungy part of New Orleans, cigarette in one hand and espresso in the other. A young, undiscovered crooner sits on a stool on a tiny stage, with a dim light hanging overhead. It’s more or less my perfect environment.
The first thing you notice when popping this record on is Gibson’s deep, booming voice. It’s unlike anything else being recorded in the contemporary music scene. It drowns out and is the perfect addition to the delicate and tortured lyricism he eases with strong intent upon his audience. The last voice that we be even remotely comparable comes in Morrisey from the Smiths, however even he doesn’t have the same level of character within his own timbre. Opening track “Bad Guys” does set the tone for the record, which is in parts lo-fi, but as a whole remains pretty downtempo drawing upon a range of instruments for the shorter track.
The record is quite short, on a side note, the first track only clocks in at one and a half minutes, and the other nine span no longer than four minutes each. But it doesn’t feel as though you’ve been short changed here, as a lot of content is packed into the just under forty minute album.
The beginning of the record is more electronic and trance based, however Gibson manages to display the lyrical side of himself towards the middle and second half of the record. “A Young Girl’s World” sets the scene for what starts a distressing track before moving into the realms of the unsettling. The track is a personal lament, directed at the absolute tragedy of alcoholism and desperation of the people you see in the streets with nowhere to go and no hope for themselves. Gibson longs for “another way to get downtown” to avoid the “grown man crying”. The short two verses don’t materially appear to hold a great deal of content, but every word is chosen with the utmost care, and is loaded with emotion. The track is suitably sparse, giving the impression of absolute loneliness.
On a similar note is the closing track “All Hell” opens with an eerie spoken word track regarding the thoughts of a dying atheist*. A child refuses the company of his parents on his deathbed, instead crying out for his grandmother who knows god and how to pray.
Gibson has a real knack for artful lyricism and creating beats and instrumentation to accompany it perfectly. There aren’t any tracks that were particularly unpleasant and from beginning to end you’re subjected to the wishes of your deep-voiced confident. Throughout the entire record you’re perceptions of the world are skewed and molded to Gibson’s image, and whilst it’s darker, it’s a still a nice place to be.
*Muse reference, holla!