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Daniel Blumberg
Minus Joseph Mumford , May 4th, 2018 14:06

Young veteran of Cajun Dance Party and Yuck finds his voice and his confidence, makes an excellent solo album

Daniel Blumberg is a restless one. At 28, the London-based artist already has a string of lacklustre musical projects behind him, from the ill-fated Cajun Dance Party to 90s pastiche Yuck, to a series of more valiant but half-baked solo efforts as Oupa and Hebronix. More recently, Blumberg ventured into the world of free improvisation, taking up residence at Dalston’s Cafe Oto where he worked on a number of experimental projects. After five years of dabbling, Blumberg has reemerged with the first album under his own name.

Recorded during five days of seclusion in the Welsh countryside, Minus contrasts intimate piano-led tunes with outbursts of free improv. Blumberg is accompanied by a quartet of violin, saxophone, cello and double bass that, at times, spits and sputters notes with unhinged violence and at others creaks ominously in the background. There is a sense of turmoil throughout; you can picture Blumberg hunched over his piano as musicians linger on the fringes, waiting to score his fall. “I can’t escape / from the band,” he sings on ‘The Bomb’, and one wonders whether he’s reflecting on his musical history or a reliance on his newfound group of improvisers to punctuate the album’s darkest moments.

‘Madder’ is 12 minutes of this discomfort, jolting in and out of manic Incus-esque improvisations like they’re hypnagogic hallucinations. In contrast, ‘Stacked’ is a ballad tinged with an country inflection, where Blumberg shows off an affecting Neil Young-esque falsetto. It’s been rare to hear Blumberg singing in anything other than a faux-American drawl, so it’s a pleasant change in pace to hear him finally expressing himself without so much self-consciousness.

It’s interesting that Blumberg describes himself as having been “monomaniacal” about this album’s completion. It’s not a record that sounds particularly meticulous, given its free-form spontaneity. Many of the more traditional sections are repetitive, focusing around a single refrain with maybe a few variations. This is not meant as a criticism. Minus is raw and honest, and the melodic simplicity drives that home.

Blumberg left Cajun Dance Party, Yuck, Oupa, Hebronix after just one album each. Despite the themes of disarray and breakdown, here, it’s hard to imagine he’ll do that again. Minus is a statement of intent from an artist who has found his voice and shaken off his past.

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