dBer is the brainchild of Dana Berber, Andrew O'Connor and Clancy Balen. Their release By Their Right Name is an avant-garde blend of art rock/pop tendencies, which is often inventive and engaging.
I have to say that By Their Right Name begs for hi-fi listening not unlike what you would expect on an album from Aphex Twin, Dirty Projectors or The Books. There are so many unique textures and tones throughout the album that could benefit from separation and clarity that just wasn’t there. It’s such a shame because the songs are often muddy and just lack definition. The ideas and songwriting are well thoughtout but the implementation could use some work.
The album opens with “Pink Sky (A Breath)” which is one of the standouts. It starts off with the soft hum of a pulsating synth that gets layered with vocals and a deep slow moving drum beat. The song is hypnotic and ethereal when the guitar enters into the mix. Next up is “Skitzz” which is another notable track that for the first half sounds like the band is warming up which introduces elements of free jazz. I loved how the music organically evolved into something substantial. As for the vocal I have to say I had ambivalent feelings about the poetic ramblings.
“A Shorter, Tighter, Lazier Wednesday (What Are You King Of?) aka Sahara” starts with a fast drumbeat, synths and string. The song’s transition descends, and then goes off into off-kilter unique places. Solid stuff. “Gypsie” had some cool ideas as well while “I Look Forward to Saying Hello” reminded me of Portishead.
“An Assurance” starts off sparse with acoustic guitar and vocals but turns into a chaotic free for all. Not bad but the closer “I don't like you and I never will” has it beat because of the infectious vocals.
dBer undoubtedly feels like the beginnings of a project that could be so much more. Some of the songs feel a little bit too self indulgent and artsy for the sake of artsy which inadvertently takes away from the visceral human emotions. I kept thinking about The Dirty Projectors. A lot of their earlier material you could argue does the same thing but with Swing Lo Magellan they managed to mix the perfect amount of artistic exploration with very genuine sincere and ground emotion.
If dBer plays their cards right they could be on a similar path because you hear hints of it on some of their best tracks. Other than that they should keep at it and I highly recommended they work with a producer/engineer next time around to get to the next level with the recording quality. It’s a very promising start from this group and I hope to hear more soon.
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