Release Date: Apr 30, 2013
Record label: Hippos in Tanks
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
In the closing minutes of last year’s dragging, drifting The Narcissist II mini-album, Dean Blunt’s narcotized R&B lothario hits the ceiling of his own nihilism and narrowly avoids free-fall by stalking and whining his way into a bona fide pop hit, restoring his confidence with an immediate rush of affirmation (and probably cocaine) that, oddly enough, parallels the real-world response to Blunt’s music. The Redeemer, then, with its veneer of newfound professionalism, would suggest a continuation and expansion of that linked narrative — the grounded follow-up to an overhyped mixtape, with all the inner and outer signifiers of career maturation on display: high-gloss production, broad palette of sound, “real musicianship,” single premiere on Pitchfork, tastefully plasticized/embossed CD/LP in wide release. The abundance of references to religion — “Demon,” “Jericho,” “Seven Seals,” an emoji-fied representation of Dürer’s famous praying hands sketch — intensify this atmosphere of cleaned-up piety, as if the artist (being a true narcissist) read his own reviews and gleaned that he might need some serious outside help.
If you expect Dean Blunt’s new album to reveal the mysteries behind his intentions as an artist, under this, or the myriad of other enigmatic pseudonyms he uses, then prepare to be disappointed. Indeed, the only thing that seems truly un-muddied by the end of The Redeemer, is that Blunt has created an intriguing, hypnotic and beautiful record that resonates around your head long after the music stops. In the past few years Blunt has been chiefly responsible, alongside vocalist Inge Copeland for the foggy-headed production and otherworldly electronica that fueled the sound of Hype Williams (no… not that one) through a number of albums, videos and EPs.
Everything about Dean Blunt is shrouded in a great puff of obfuscation. Dean Blunt isn't his real name. Hype Williams, the duo he formed with Inga Copeland, is also the name of a famous director, leading the unwary on a wild Google chase. The stories he tells in interviews—about joining the nation of Islam, racoon robbery and so forth—should be taken with a mine of salt.
Dean Blunt is heartbroken, possibly. The Redeemer is his break-up album, a relatively straightforward affair after numerous releases that seemed to reveal as little about him as possible-- or maybe they revealed everything. His prior work, both on his own and with sometime partner Inga Copeland, varied wildly in quality, finally reaching a dead end with last year's The Narcissist II, a half-assed tribute to half-assedness.
It’s rare to hear an album that sounds like it’s not of this world. The twists and turns on Hype Williams producer Dean Blunt’s follow-up to 2011’s ‘The Narcissist II’ seem like they’re from anywhere but Earth, and evoke a strange sonic landscape. The Londoner combines neurotic voicemails and crashing waves (‘Walls Of Jericho’) with harp, choral vocals, slide guitar and classical strings (‘I Run New York’), then occasionally slings his own sing-rap weariness on top of it all.
Dean Blunt’s world is a fuzzy one. Not that the former half of Hype Williams has a particularly sunny outlook on life, but well, Dean Blunt isn’t even his real name. Both in collaboration with Inga Copeland, as well as on his previous two efforts under his adopted moniker, he’s put forth a confrontational, hazy stew of dub and dance, mirroring his personal and professional obfuscation with a near impenetrable musical fog.
The output of Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland has knowingly shrouded itself in mystery since their emergence. The Redeemer, however, feels tangible and canonical like no work by either of Hype Williams' noms de plume before. Blunt's mysterious 2012 album/mixtape The Narcissist II is quickly drawn into sharp focus as The Redeemer ostensibly picks up right where the former left off, from the get-go confirming the nagging suspicion that his ongoing Narcissist series was more than simply thematically linked, that it was in fact a progressing narrative, an experimental pop opera.