Dan is the front man for the band Ember Rev
Hidden Music is his first solo album
Dan thoughts on the album
I first heard ‘Spirit of Eden’ by Talk Talk when it came out in 1988 – I was seventeen. The idea of creating music in which the singing barely rises above a whisper, the beat often disappears completely beneath a haze of static buzzing trumpets, strings and double bass, and yet, out of nowhere, all is a sudden and ear-splitting white noise…. seriously appealed.
I realised these six songs worked together both lyrically and musically after three albums with Ember Rev but these songs were conceived at and for the piano and wouldn’t work if reconfigured for different instruments. Also, I had little desire to perform live such intensely personal downtempo ruminations on family, fatherhood, status anxiety and the memory of ambition. So it became this: a solo album of music for headphones, music for contemplation, music that is, and has been for many years, hidden.
Half Of All We See Is Shadows…
…was a great observation my seven-year-old son made as we peered into the shallow water of a brook and saw tiny fishes, apparently doubled in number by the sunlight. I was holding on as he reached in and I felt the disapproving shadows of people nearby, wondering if we’d slip. The sound is full of silences filled only with the vapour trail of each passing chord; blocks of sound assembled as if monolithic.
Cri du Coeur….
….was for years just a bassline; a strange 18-bar thing that seemed to be endlessly descending. Eventually the lyric – a memory of two cries – emerged: one heard from a forest in which kids were letting off fireworks, having the time of their lives; another heard from flying geese, an extraordinary, apparently heart-broken, sound. Was one the cry of those escaping; the other of those desperately searching?
… is in some ways the backbone of this album as its lyric is so obviously about reaching a particular age, a pivotal age, and discovering how so much falls away, how the vanities and insecurities of youth are suddenly irrelevant. I considered calling it ‘Desiderata’ after Max Ehrmann’s great prose-poem in which he says ‘If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter for always there will be greater or lesser persons than yourself’
King of Lands, of Skies and Sea…
…is that kind of thing we most fear and yet so often aspire to: the big, sweeping, powerballad. And in this instance I’m aspiring to the sounds of Arcade Fire, Elbow, or Mercury Rev at their most cinematic. The devil is still there, or perhaps Shakespeare’s three witches, whispering like sirens then promising great wealth and fortune, sovereignty over all I survey. The teenage fear of either being a great success or a dismal failure is, as with ‘Approaching Silence’, replaced in time with a perspective borne of compromise.
This Uphill River…
…Is the point at which after two songs of reflection we’re suddenly in the present, building a home, progressing steadily from the house by the stream, down the river, to the sea. It has an inexorable pull and yet is, at every point, hard work. And so the groove is heavy, relentless; the violins are scratching and swooping whilst the tuned percussion is hammering away; it’s the sound of a life being built.
I Forever Dream of Home…
…is, conversely, a final look back at the memory of my childhood home, within a disturbing dream in which the fear of leaving is realised when I discover I can never return: the cracks are sealed, the snow covers the door and I try but can’t get in. Too often we imagine that those who are forced to leave their homes are seeking fortunes and never look back; in fact the memory of everything we leave behind is always there. Music is perhaps some way in which we can revisit places and people lost, or at least a soundtrack for all our imagined homecomings.