Release Date: Oct 14, 2016
Record label: Erased Tapes Records
Whelm, the debut album by Douglas Dare, established the London-based musician’s modern classical credentials in the suitably welcoming surroundings of the Erased Tapes label but also came with points of real distinction, most notably in the form of his songs and individual voice. Second album Aforger is an impressive move forward, containing moments of consolidation, but for the most part striking out confidently, reorienting himself musically. That the album is such a harder-hitting listen than its predecessor can largely be attributed to its origins.
The age-old adage that the second album is the hardest is perhaps particularly apt for singer-songwriter Douglas Dare; after coming out to his father and ending a long-term relationship, writing a follow up to his acclaimed 2014 debut Whelm, can’t have been easy. His latest offering, Aforger, deals with the turbulence in his own personal life candidly and emotively, yet he somehow manages not to write the break-up album many would have expected him to write, nor does he rest on the laurels of Whelm’s successes. 'I was determined not to write a break-up album or repeat what I’d done before,' Dare says of his latest.
In the couple of years leading up to his second record, London-based producer and piano player Douglas Dare has gone through some very personal issues. Not only did he come out to his father, but he also broke up with his long-term partner. Considering this and the often harsh sincerity that laced his debut LP ‘Whelm,’ ‘Aforger’ could easily have been cast as a break-up album.
Where genuine adventurousness is concerned, the dichotomy between sonic and thematic decisions has never been clearer. It’s hard not to feel that musicians should be striving to break new ground on at least one of those two fronts so it was always less than promising on the latter front when Douglas Dare announced this sophomore LP, Aforger, with a first single that was lyrically based around George Orwell’s 1984. The central themes of betrayal, you suspect, would have been substantial enough, without the need for overwrought literary embellishment.
Douglas Dare’s music is solitary, passionate and moving. In the stories he tells, the melodies he sings and the conviction he sings them with. The Seven Hours EP in 2013, as well as 2014's Whelm were both relatively stripped back when it came to arrangements, with little more than a piano for company in most tracks. Tracks such as "Scars", "Caroline" and "Nile" showed off Dare’s ability not just as a songwriter but as a unique vocal talent.
Before you even click ‘play’ on Aforger, there’s the arresting, confounding image on the sleeve to reckon with: bare-chested and exposed, Douglas Dare gazes out at the listener as a torrent of ectoplasm spills from his mouth. Whether it’s a visual metaphor for the way words and feelings pour out of us in times of stress or just an expression of self-disgust, it’s a clear indication that Dare is moving on here from the soulful introspection of his earlier material into darker, more challenging territory. Prior to making this album, Dare came out to his father and ended a long-term relationship, but he was determined not to make a break-up record.