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Reviews

Jean D.L.
Early Nights Sonia de Jager , February 13th, 2015 14:04

By paying close attention to the fragility of ambient detail-work, Jean D.L. accommodates dronish guitarscapes - echoes of Jandek, or Gira-like despair, together with somnolent, walking-into-syrup ambient. Nightmarish yet soothing reminders of the choirs in Kubrick's 2001 combine together with rough, clearly hand-made turbulence, resulting in an awkward yet balanced communion.

Spanning over a seven-year period of recordings, the structure of this work reflects its eclectic roots. At times this may result in untimely switches which leave the listener hanging. Indeed, the character of such a work demands a particular type of commitment, thus slightly longer pieces with less abrupt endings could perhaps facilitate an easier entrance for - or perhaps into - the uninitiated ear. In any case, this particular critical aspect could be very well considered as something that varies considerably between auditive structures and preferences. However abrupt or meditative, it seems as if Jean D.L. demands a new kind of attention from the ambient-listener. Playing at the intersection between drone, inhuman sound and the tragedy of tortured guitars, we are invited to engage with a disconcerting cross-breed of styles and approaches: on the one hand we are guided by the familiar sound of the guitar, while on the other the metallic, reverberant modulation of circuitry keeps things impersonal.

Jean D.L. works with contrasts in a subtle way; every new detail he introduces enters the sonic clearing unalarmed and nonchalant. New beasts do not startle the ear. No mean feat when working with the element of acousmatic surprise. This approach does not differ greatly from the styles he develops in earlier solo works. When comparing this album to some of his earlier works (The Room With The Flower Wallpaper 2010, Arbres Nocturnes 2009, or Entrance Room 2007) one may find that Early Nights continues to work with the same palette, as if the experiment were to be able to somehow trap that transcendence given rise to by these monolithic soundscapes. The thirst for boxing something intangible is clear throughout Jean D.L.'s musical career.

The notably audible performative aspects of the recorded sound are perhaps one of the things that invite visual imagination the most, and remind us of the author's all-rounded background as an artist. Albeit somewhat unoriginal, the ambient vocabulary employed by Jean D.L. does create a certain familiarity and comfort that is pleasing rather than boring. Moreover, by combining flat ambient with angular, rich-in-texture guitars, Jean D.L. adds an authentic quality to the work which propels it beyond classical contemplation. As already mentioned, D.L.'s determined perseverance with a specific 'ambient-dialect' awakens in one the artist's own curiosity, and the same elusive questions that seem to have no answer. And despite being too intimate at times, the awkward fluidity and richness of the soundscapes he creates do invite listening patience.

This is an album to listen to alone, preferably at night. An album to share rather than 'recommend'. Nocturnal indeed, Early Nights leaves the ear with phantasmagoric nostalgia. Perhaps as also denoted by the album's cover image, it seems as if we were allowed into a place of very specific privacy, which is nonetheless so recognisable it can be perceived as universal.

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