Review of Dan Black's album Un.
It's one of the strangest paradoxes about pop music but also one of it's most immutable truths: stick a female behind a bank of synthesisers and get her singing about love, Bergerac or Rubik's Cubes and it's all gravy. The girls all want to be her best mate and the boys..well, they just want to do what boys want to do. Get a bloke doing it however, and suddenly everyone's offering him chunks of raw meat and asking why he didn't listen to enough Oasis growing up.
Credit Dan Black though for at least having the prescience to jump the indie train before it crashed, dissolving former vehicle The Servant after their final release, 2006's europe-only effort How To Destroy A Relationship. Converting soon after to a strain of electronica he'd like us to think is 'edgy' and/or 'leftfield', the Paris-based emigre Londoner caused minor ripples last year with 'HYPNTZ', which spliced Notorious B.I.G's Hypnotize and Rihanna's Umbrella and helped steer him into the upper reaches of this year's more highbrow Next Big Thing lists.
Renamed Symphonies HYPNTZ re-appears as ((un))'s opening track and is still both effortlessly somber and uplifting, whilst the following U + Me booms orchestrally over it's epic sounding breaks to equally great effect. From then on however you sense Black is torn between wanting to please the indie disco crowd whilst secretly trying to make it onto your mum's iPod. It's a desire that means when things slow down - as on Cocoon and Life Slash Dreams - the effect is very Hot Chip, although less disarmingly Yours skates much too close to early Kasabian on a budget.
The real problem though is twofold; firstly, Black's voice is nondescript, better suited to the fey, alabaster-hued indie world of knitwear and Jean Cocteau he used to hang out in. And even ((un))'s best tracks - the winsome Cigarette Packs and Alone, with it's the funky, piledriving bass motif - lack the kitchen sink gusto of say an In For The Kill or New In Town. Those looking for true one man and his synth enlightenment could do worse than take in the shoegazing psychedelia of James Chapman (aka Maps), but for Dan Black I'm afraid it's almost certainly back to the drawing board.