With Dalhous, Alex Ander and Marc Dall traded the chilling industrial chamber music of their Young Hunting project in favor of oblique, twitchy ambient pastoralism. Yet the duo never lost their particular sort of offness, producing a sprawling work (last year’s An Ambassador for Laing) that served as a boon to both fans of 90s electronica and to the estimable roster of the untouchable Blackest Ever Black imprint. It’s an album in which the rich variety of textures and moods are initially more vexing than welcoming. It takes its time in becoming a thing of familiarity and character, far from rushing to win you over. If this EP is any indication, their forthcoming follow-up (Will To Be Well) should carry off the same patient, New Age water torture intrigue.
In a self-help context, the Foucault quote of the title takes on a compellingly ridiculous light. One can imagine a benevolent, becalmed, sonorous voice intoning:
Visibility is a trap. Go inside. No, deeper. I see you peeking, now stop it! You can’t, can you? See, we’ve all become conditioned to this paranoid state of consciousness. We are in a Panopticon of our own making. We must remember our dreams. We must remember our affinity with them. We must remember our community with them. They are what frees us from the paralysis that comes through inevitable assessment by visual transmission/reception. They are contained. They are not co-dependent. Dreams are our secret pride. A somber specificity of abstraction that renders all stultifying variables of outside observance and our vexation thereof mere obstacles to bend ourselves around. The process must be broken. The trap must be dismantled so that all may move forward in relative confidence. Sometimes, when a being’s sense is taken from them, the remaining senses make up for the loss with untapped levels of potency. Similarly, if we occasionally blinker the proverbial windows of our hyper-aware states, we can find new resolve in the interior life we have been blessed with since birth.
As it happens, though, Ander and Dall are taking self-affirmation into their subversive work ethic and reveling in its absurd matter-of-factness. But they likely still want to sell records, so there is a latent reverence for the phenomenon of hawking perspective.
This is instrumental music, yet it explicitly resonates with the modern condition of apoplectic alienation that many of us struggle with. Solipsism seems less of a pejorative term than it used to be, due to the preponderance of facets and elites that spring from putting ones head down and plowing onward. There’s such a deluge of information and misinformation now that it’s easy to see the virtue in not just nihilism, but a sort of reclamation of the grace of gradually taking things as you find them. Dalhous lean forward in muted diligence, even as the world around them surreptitiously pries at their peripheral vision. They incorporate these slitted visions of a world out of balance in the flashing tone fractals that undermine their pure moods trickles and washes. Without necessarily sounding like their influences, Dalhous operate within the music-making continuum in a reverent fashion. The drifting melodies are old as electronic music itself, but their patient application allows for a humble sort of beauty. Scavenging and creative restlessness thereby combine forces to transport us through these ramshackle, lived-in realms with a sense of wonder.
Playing with the notion of well-being as an aesthetic is a disturbing thing for a Tangerine Dream-loving ambient act to do. This is not yoga or meditation music, despite its preoccupation with all that is dulcet. These are snatches of rusty stagnant water glimpsed through holes in a crumbling bridge. These are the wisps of what we think we’ve managed to ignore flitting across the underside of our eyelids. These are the ghosts of mantras that were repeated ad infinitum but never stuck. As the gelid, remote Regis remix of An Ambassador’s lead-off track reiterates, this is music that presents dissolving as momentum and failing as a sort of enlightenment. The dust never settles, and the epiphany never arrives, yet one foot follows the other in advance of wearying delirium. It’s reassuring to know that there are people making music in this light and strangely heartening to absorb it.