Not one for fanfare, Daniel Avery has surprised music fans by releasing an album two weeks after the final note was recorded. His third record in the space of two years, Love + Light follows on from albums Song for Alpha and Illusion of Time – the latter being a collaboration with Alessandro Cortini of Nine Inch Nails.
Recorded during the lockdown and consisting of two halves, the album depended on the two separate parts. Avery said, ‘It was apparent that the album would be split into two distinct halves but halves that were inexorably tied together. One could not have existed without the other’.
Disc One opener ‘London Island’ looms into view as if emerging from mist. Distant foghorns call out to anyone who will listen, and fade into the ambience like a ship disappearing over the horizon. It’s a cut of tension-laden distortion, fitting for these turbulent times. I imagine this track used to re-score the opening scene of Shutter Island, the Scorcese masterpiece acclaimed for its tense eeriness.
After the ghostly opener, ‘Dusting for Smoke’ hits like a cold bucket of water to the face. The beat and bassline are firmly in the realm of techno, with the eerie discordance of pads that reinforce the dystopian vibe.
‘Dream Distortion’ has a big warehouse techno sound with the reverb cranked up to 11. Heavily distorted keys and off-beat cymbals are interwoven with hi-hats that pan throughout. The dizzying force of the main hook, and the variance in its distortion, bring life to the grand and shadowy space that this energy emanates from.
Moving on, ‘Katana’ provides a moment of calm. A harp is rhythmically plucked and strummed with poignant delicacy, as digital waves of dreamlike half-notes bob to the surface of your consciousness.
‘Darlinnn’ is my personal highlight of the album: a pulsing, building, energetic masterpiece in techno production. A bobbing key rhythm builds to create a complex drum pattern, in conjunction with the heavyhitting kick drum. Playing with the prominence of the mid to high-end keys and synths of the track, like the peaks and troughs of a sine wave in the electrical networks that bind us, Avery has created something beautiful in its simplicity, so much so you forget the classic 4/4 beat renders no snare drum.
‘Depth Wish’ naturally reads as a play on ‘death wish’, and in keeping with these dark connotations, this piece is sparse. The strongest impression I can give is what can only be described as a rusty electronic scythe moving back and forth in a disused factory, as if swung by the Grim Reaper himself.
‘Searing Light, Forward Motion’ has an intense drum & bass style beat which grabs the album by the balls and ups the BPM considerably. On top of that, we’re hit with a mix of acid and Avery’s signature dissonant synths, to intensify your disillusionment with the new normal. It should be noted that if your disillusionment needs work, you’re a breezier sort than I am. Enjoyable, especially if your current mental state is slightly… askew.
In ‘Infinite Future’ we have a modernistic dubstep track. A downtempo piece with a deep sub-bass lulls you into a false sense of calm, before the gradual onset of ominous synths swarms in like robotic killer bees, keeping you on the edge of comfort.
Disc Two is decidedly more laid back, and in parts sounds a bit like a love letter to Scottish electronic duo Boards of Canada.
Intro track ‘After the Fire’ is a powerful, grandiose piece of music that has a finale feel to it, but instead fades and gives way to ‘Into The Arms of Stillness’ – my favourite of the downtempo and ambient works on the album. This track has a vulnerable, ethereal sound, with a breakbeat and the trademark Avery distortion, but without the eerie, dissonant synths evident throughout the first disc. It has an almost childlike quality in its sound and sentiment, in contrast with a title that conjures images of morbid finality.
‘Fuzzwar’ sounds like a pioneering electronic track from the 80s. Floating, soft synths pleasantly bop to and fro on this journey, with tittering hi-hats for company. ‘Pure Life’ is hauntingly beautiful. It carries a distortion, a constant digital fuzz forming waves of sound, while the same simple keys are played again and again, growing in clarity and volume. The soundtrack of a teary farewell to a loved one.
‘A Story in E5’ is an antidote to the feelings of menace so prominent in some of the previous tracks. Sweeping synths with soft, welcoming pads twinkle a melody, with a chilled breakbeat to generate a gentle head-nod. A welcome dose of chilled-out positivity.
The final track of the album, ‘One More Morning’, has birdsong playing throughout, articulating an early morning rise of reverb that makes the intricate beat seem produced from the depths of an empty music hall. The track sounds like it came to Avery in a dream.
The qualities Avery possesses as a musician enable him to capture and express these emotionally intimate feelings of duality. This album sees him combine raw energetic life-force and celestial calm, and at times it’s as if he acts purely as a conduit for the music. As Avery himself says, ‘Music has always been a source of personal strength for me, yet I remain fascinated by the power it can possess of its own volition. Releasing the record in this way, just a couple of weeks after the final note had fallen, felt like a decision made by an outside force, yet one I agreed with entirely. Stay safe, friends, and I’ll see you on the other side soon.’’