The name Dan Barrett is well known to anyone following projects such as Have a Nice Life, Giles Corey and Enemies List (and quite a few more.) In his latest project, Black Wing, Barrett sets on a digital-only path. While the motto of his other project, Giles Corey, has been: “only acoustic instruments allowed,” Black Wing features only digital instruments. There is a certain simplicity and ease that comes with digital, as the process of recording becomes a bit more simplified. According to Barrett himself, the whole process became more fast and enjoyable, as he did not have to worry about things such as tuning, or strings breaking and the like.
The recording process itself took place just after the Have a Nice Life album was recorded, so Barrett jumped straight into Black Wing. The songs that are featured here are all new, with the only exception being “My Body Betrayed Me” which was released through Bandcamp a while back. As was the case with the rest of Barrett's project, ...Is Doomed was recorded at his home. However, the state of Barrett at the time was not the best, as the main man had some serious health problems, and had to be surrounded by a number of machines to aid him.
What that led to was the creation of a record which would have a more depressive style. That might not be so far away from the other albums that Barrett has released through the years, but in this case this melancholy was merged with a more mechanized vibe and an electronic soul. The result is as Barrett describes it: a depressive chill wave record. The feeling that overflows from the album is that of sorrow, but at the same time of relaxation. An overall sensation of being at ease with all that is inevitable. “Luther” walks nicely between those lines, blurring the two so nicely in one another. The dream state is established quite quickly in the case of ...Is Doomed with many of the tracks verging towards this celestial trip. “My Body Betrayed” features such moments, causing a complete loss of reality in the process. However, there are slight changes of vibe through the different tracks of the album. “Black Wing” comes in with a more imposing characteristic, before the dreamscapes return and cause everything to melt away, in an almost psychedelic manner, in their presence. The tone of “Unemployed” makes a switch for the more mysterious, while the upbeat start of “DSA” takes a turn for the grim. But that strange combination of uplifting and at the same time melancholic is revealed in all its glory with the two final tracks of the album, “Death Sentences” and “If I Let Him In.” The pessimistic quality of the tracks is constantly evolving through the dark corridors of Black Wing, causing despair and confusion with each passing second.
The foundation of the record lies within the electronic domain, that much is certain. The synthetic drums are found all over this record, creating a more mechanized approach. However, their change in tone is also a give-away about how the tracks will evolve. The softer percussion in “Luther” gives the track a more delicate sound, while the heavier synths in “Black Wing” and the almost industrial-esque approach in “My Body Betrayed Me” show the bleaker side of Black Wing. On the other hand, the more adventurous sounds of “Unemployed” and their faster pace help craft a darker and more obscure moment of electronica, while the dance rhythms of “DSA” and their tribal-esque setting have an intoxicating effect.
On the background it is the ambiance that starts to interact with the synth drums. The noisy effects in “My Body Betrayed Me” make the process more difficult to handle, something that is also the case with the final part of “If I Let Him In,” as the tendencies towards a more noise-like domain are revealed, with the dissonance and edge allowed to creep into the structure of the track. The big sounds of “Unemployed” and the sweeping synths of “If I Let Him In” give an expansive quality to the music. While, at other times it might be just the inclusion of a sample that can bring that ambiance forth, as is happening with “Death Sentences.”
Once the foundation has been solidified, Black Wing is relying on their melodies to do the work. The lines that are used in this album have an almost blissful tone about them. The opening track for example features such melodies, which in turn are awakening the dreamlike scenery of Black Wing. The beautiful melodic parts of “Death Sentences” and the repetitive vocal lines give the track a lot of power, and at the same time a fair amount of haziness, forcing you to view the world through Black Wing's kaleidoscope. The otherworldly melody of “Black Wing” and the ethereal state of the final track are just more instances where such themes are used. However, there are a couple of parts where a slightly different approach is undertaken. “DSA” is such an example as it is taking on a more retro sound. Slightly differently, “My Body Betrayed Me” seems to be falling even more in the chillwave category, with the shifting presence of the melodies creating a great contrast with the earlier, mechanical approach of the track.
In order to bring the right amount of sadness and melancholy to the album, Black Wing further incorporate elements of shoegaze in their music. The tone that this presence creates is obvious in “Luther” and “Black Wing,” managing to bring in a certain beauty and at the same time a sadness. There are also moments when the shoegaze reaches a more extreme state, as is the case with the noisier tones of “Black Wing” and the distorted parts of “My Body Betrayed Me” and “Unemployed.” The even bigger, distorted parts of “Death Sentences” solidify the dominance of this aspect of Black Wing, with especially the final two minutes of the track finding the band dwelling even deeper within the shoegaze domain.
...Is Doomed is an album of blissful melancholy. That might seem bizarre, but that is the only way that the music of Black Wing can be described. The manner by which Barrett has been able to achieve that collision, in all his work, is extraordinary. And it makes for a great sonic trip as well. While considering the futility of it all, listen to ...Is Doomed and you might, just might, find that a slight grin is forming.
7.8 / 10
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