15 Nov 2016

Album review: Utopia Defeated by D.D Dumbo

From The Sampler, 7:30 pm on 15 November 2016
D.D. Dumbo

D.D. Dumbo Photo: Supplied

Elliott Childs gets to grips with globe-spanning otherworldliness of Australian one-man-band D.D. Dumbo.

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The town of Castlemaine, Australia is world famous for its beer. However, their own Oliver Hugh Perry, who performs and records as D.D Dumbo, might just give them something else to give a Four X about. His textural wonder of a debut album, Utopia Defeated is a rich mixture of processed guitars, layered vocals and influences that span the globe. It’s made all the more impressive by the fact that Perry has done the vast majority of the work on the record himself.

 The album is full of hypnotic rhythms and chiming 12 string guitar lines that, to my ear, are reminiscent of some of the brilliant musicians in the Malian guitar tradition. Elsewhere, Indian sitar drones and tabla percussion mesh beautifully with synths and guitars. Perry also brings in extra layers of woodwind and even the odd blood curdling scream to enhance the soundscape even more. Each time I listen to the album, I hear some new harmony or sound that I had never noticed before. With a record as full and as layered as this one, it’s almost impossible to hear everything on first listen. This makes the record enticing to revisit as, with each repeat play, new audible surprises are uncovered.

 Despite it’s large musical scope, Utopia Defeated comes across as a very personal album with a strong message. Often Perry’s breathy vocal style and effects heavy production don’t lend themselves too well to decipherable lyrics. It’s clear though that his strong belief in animal rights is very much at the forefront of his writing. He doesn’t pull his punches either, with songs like ‘Walrus and Oyster’ describing the horrors of animal testing and the rather brutal nature of preparing animals as food.

This is an album that defies genre. As I’ve mentioned, there are influences from around the world to be found in each song but there are also elements of psychedelia, folk, free jazz, and electronica in the mix. Whilst there has obviously been a lot of time spent in the studio to make this album, there are very few points where it feels overproduced. Perry makes great use of modern audio editing techniques and instruments come and go with only a handful remaining constant throughout any track. At times it almost sounds as if Perry is dashing from one instrument to the next in the studio, playing each part in real time. Whilst the soundscapes of this record are full and dense at times, nothing is superfluous. The idea that less is more is often true when it comes to music, but in this case, less just wouldn't be enough.

Songs featured:  Walrus, Satan, Alihukwe, In The Water, Oyster, The Day I First Found God.

Utopia Defeated is available on 4AD Records.