Monday, April 11, 2011

Des Ark - "Don't Rock The Boat, Sink The Fucker"

By Chris Wigley
Rating: 4/5
Lovitt Records CD/LP

There’s something to be said for the artist who can be both diverse and remain rooted in that distinctive sound that makes it them; all too often, we as the listener fall victim to either an album of a single song formula repeated ad nauseum, or perhaps the worse offender, the album that panders to the trends. The slow song, the fast song, the slightly more edgy one and so forth. Des Ark’s "Don’t Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker" is the sort of album that thankfully is neither of the above, and whilst not quite one of those albums that manages to be entirely diverse, it is a very dynamic album with a defined sense of self. And it is a very good one at that.

Flitting between shoegazey folk, all ethereal twinkle and distant shimmering drone, balls-out indie rock with little jabs of scissoring angularity and darker, more arcane moments of gothic farmhouse Americana (that at times recall label and current tourmates, Pygmy Lush), the album is alarmingly loud and quiet in equal measure, and it is often in the transitions between the two extremes that the music really comes to life. You know the age-old saying that jazz is about the notes you don’t hear? Well, if that saying wasn’t a crock of shit, it’d make sense here, because it’s those tiny moments when quiet becomes loud, or when jarring becomes sensual that it hits you.

At times, the songs feel over-thought; an idea that could benefit from being drawn out and allowed to develop naturally is stunted by the excitement of something new being pushed to the forefront. The music becomes erratic not in its delivery but in how the songs gel and flow. However, these moments are few and far between, and the dynamic nature of the composition when done correctly really cuts deep; the crashing drums and clashing guitars; the wide-eyed harmonies sung in unison both as backing chorus and expressive lead. It’s powerful stuff.

Song titles like, "Howard's Hour of Shower" and "FTW Y’ALL!!!" hint at a humour that defies the sound of the album and the nature of the lyrics (at times both ambiguous and insightful) nod elsewhere for attention; "Bonne Chance, Asshole" talks of the static hum of a stagnant small town and dreaming of escape; the epic clash of "It's Only a Bargain If You Want It" with its raw repeated mantra of "you will always be my girl" showcases some of the most delicate vocal deliveries this side of a eulogy. When the album ended, I was left with nothing but the sound of birds chirping and the laughter of children playing on the street and for once in my life, I didn’t get the urge to fetch my rifle. I felt a contentment normally reserved for post-coital smokes or that serenity of that moment after your heavy, aching bowels empty from an early morning hangover shit.

In summary, "Don’t Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker" is a gem of an album, albeit a little rough around the edges. However, the flaws are so minor and the song-writing and delivery so well executed that it is easy to overlook such problems.

Perfect for early morning in spring, or those late summer days when the dry breeze and waning sun bring a tiny bump of melancholy to your throat. Beautiful.

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