Of the eight or so artists that have released singles or albums on the DFA label, only two haven’t been dance-oriented. The first, most infamously, is Black Dice, best known for their free-form, experimental noise and soundscapes, falling somewhere between the freak folk of Animal Collective, the ambient work of Brian Eno and the clanging din of Throbbing Gristle. The other act is the decidedly more progressive New York duo, Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom. Where The Rapture would use electronics to enhance their danceable hybrid of punk and electro, and LCD Soundsystem would integrate samples into heavy-assed dancefloor funk anthems, Delia and Gavin are far less concerned with getting asses wiggling, and far more interested in lengthy, looped Tangerine Dream-like prog-ambient, almost completely devoid of beats. Almost.
So it probably goes without saying that Delia and Gavin’s full-length debut, The Days of Mars, is unlike any other with the signature black and white lightning bolt printed on the spine. The album contains only four songs, the shortest of which is 11 minutes, the longest being over 13. Rather than taking from disco, Liquid Liquid, ESG, Gang of Four, Kraftwerk or New Order, Delia and Gavin pull inspiration from electronic acts of the ’70s, like the aforementioned Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, Cluster or (hipster name drop) Manuel Göttsching. Each track stretches out into hazy, dreamy expanses of sound, woozy and synthetic, but pleasant and soothing.
“Rise,” the opening track, is 12 minutes of looping analog synth, one of the harsher sounding tracks on the record, and the one closest to having any actual “beats.” As the songs loops are perfectly repeated in 4/4, the song takes on an almost metronomic quality, albeit one that isn’t necessarily conducive to dancing. In comparison to the nebulous “13 Moons,” however, it’s the jam. “Releveé,” meanwhile, sounds like it’s building toward a beat-heavy climax, but ultimately never does. The spaced-out, bleepy synthesizers are essentially floating on their own, held together by pulsating synth bass and little more. Meanwhile, “Black Spring” makes for an interesting cinematic backdrop, well suited for a suspense film or modern noir.
Though The Days of Mars isn’t much like anything else on DFA, Delia and Gavin do occasionally indulge in dance 12-inches under the name Black Leotard Front. However, none of that project’s influence has seeped into this album, one better suited for daydreams and more psychological and mental inspiration, rather than purely physical. It may be a little hard for LCD Soundsystem or Rapture fans to warm up to immediately, but the rich textures and unlikely inspirations make this record a fine addition for those willing to take on a more experimental side of the DFA.
Manuel Göttsching – E2-E4
Tangerine Dream – Phaedra
Arpanet – Wireless Internet
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.