Damien Q – Seasons

 Damien Q – Seasons

Damien Q – Seasons – EP Review

I’ll start this review off with a comment that I know Damien Q will appreciate more than anyone else – I pushed play on his brand-new Seasons EP, started opening up web pages and my blank canvas to write on like I normally would…and within mere seconds, he had me scrambling back over to the Spotify page…

…because what I was hearing…I mean…well that’s just not the Damien Q we know, now is it?

As Seasons began with “Summer (Liquid Glass)” it was instantly apparent that our man Damien here, well-known for doing things differently than the rest to start with already, was indeed, doing things differently again.  But this was no ordinary scramble on my part you see…this was the scramble of a man desperate to make sure he learned the name of whomever it was that was creating such spectacular sound.  It’s not that I shouldn’t have expected it from Mr. Q – I completely should have seen it coming, and known that I’ve got a pretty great track record when it comes to pushing the play button correctly at this point in my life.  Yet here we are, and the facts are the facts – Damien Q started out this latest EP with a track that was so resoundingly different from what I’d heard from him in the past that I was essentially convinced what I was hearing at first, wasn’t even him at all!  He’s a true master of disguise & metamorphosis in music – he likes a whole lot of different things, he believes in real ART in the process, and he’s freakishly fearless when considering how utterly safe he makes you realize everyone else plays it.  Pass or fail, he’s pursued his passions without compromise – whatever they may be – it’s not only earned my respect in-full throughout the years, but I’m sure it’s also kept things entirely interesting for himself as an artist along the way – keeping your doors open to limitless possibilities will do that, every time.  Damien Q goes where the music and the moment takes him – any of you out there with similar courage and artistic integrity knows that comes with the ol’ ups & downs of experimentation, that’s just the reality & nature of the creative game – it just so happens that the Seasons EP is nothing but UP for the main man in question.  He’s pushed himself further with this EP, and the effort is 100% noticeable.

If I’m being completely real with ya, I was half-convinced upon pushing play that I was somehow listening to a new Massive Attack song that I’d never heard before.  If ya only knew how very, very high that band has always sat upon the pedestal I’ve placed them on folks, then you know this is just about the biggest compliment I could potentially hand out to someone.  “Summer (Liquid Glass)” is just pure sonic brilliance at its finest…from the textures to the tones, the entire atmosphere is as compelling and interesting as it is genuinely entertaining & engaging…and it’s played with such a naturally organic flow and design that it’s truly quite stunning to experience, especially considering how much you can hear has gone into it.  While there’s no doubt you’d still find a song like “Summer (Liquid Glass)” relegated to the ‘experimental’ realm in terms of genres, tags, and labels people out there might attach to it – which is still fair to a large degree – we’re not talking about the kind of ‘experimental’ that wanders so far out there that none of us can hang onto the idea…we’re talking about the other side of the coin, where everything seems to completely turn out right, and seamlessly slides straight through your speakers.  The atmospheric combination of airy vibes and the insatiably addictive beat that lasts through the first eighty-seconds or so as “Summer (Liquid Glass)” is straight up extraordinary…you’ll get more of it after a quick artistically-inclined deviation for some neon-synth wildness & fun…the majority of this cut is really centered around the rhythm of the electro percussion and its dreamy vibes…and rightly so!  Don’t get me wrong…I know Damien’s music well enough at this point to expect a twist & a turn here and there – the main twist on this cut was the bulk of the sound; it was the solos in the midst of it all that were more of a staple of the freewheelin’ creativity and spirit I’ve found in his music in the past.  In any event, I sure as heck ain’t complaining about ANY of this first track – “Summer (Liquid Glass)” was a fascinating start; huge bonus points for the production and the use of ambient sound in the mix as well…pure genius y’all.

What you will likely find to be the most true about the Seasons EP, is that just like the changing of colors in the scenery around us as the year moves through, the emotional thread, themes, and vibe between these songs also make just as much of a dramatic transition from one moment to the next.  As in, yes – you can see that’s how it works from the titles of the songs of course, but the point is that you can hear it too.  Damien’s an extremely open artist in that regard…and an open book when it comes to how he’s feeling & the mood he’s in…and I’d suspect a lot of this record is a reflection of that in action – you listen to a track like “Fall (I Guess)” & the added layer of aggression and intensity it comes with in its deep dive into personal turmoil and relationship struggles…you feel him cycling through & processing his thoughts and feelings here, in what feels like almost real-time…and as a result you feel the anguish, pain, and the confusion, hurt, and heartbreak involved as well.  “Fall (I Guess)” pulls no punches as it digs into the dark and keeps a mysterious & minimalistic atmosphere swirling with inquisitive sound as Damien implores the universe with questions, searching for answers as to what it was that went wrong, & a path forward.  I’m not hatin’ on the main hooks of the vocal melody in the verses by any stretch; it might not be my favorite moment, but I can certainly vouch for how memorable the pattern Damien sings in is here…it’s been in my head all week – trying to argue against the value of that, would be insane; that’s always an indication that there’s something significant there.  “Fall (I Guess)” serves a much more crucial purpose than just mere entertainment, if I’m listening to it correctly…to me this was a song that was pretty much about the breaking and/or damn-near destruction of Damien…and by the end, a defiantly rebuilt one that finds the confidence it takes to leave the past in the past, and move on to whatever the future may bring, particularly highlighted through the finale as the song shifts into an empowered vibe with about a minute left to spare, finding a whole new gear after a bizarre breakdown that’s like a circuit breaker reset.  All of a sudden, Damien Q is larger than life once again before it’s all over…at the very least for a moment, before heading back into a mix between that confidence & the confusion that had occurred in his thoughts earlier on in “Fall (I Guess)” – and if that ain’t a reflection of what the ups & downs of the rollercoaster of emotions that love is like to experience, then what else is?  Highly effective track here in terms of theme & focus…and though it’s probably gonna be those hooks in the verses that people might remember most at first, I think the real bulk of what will make this song hold up is found inside the rest.

Different Seasons, different songs, different moods, different expressions OF those moods, you feelin’ me?  That’s what you’re dealing with in this lineup of six cuts – and Damien’s found wild new ways of entertainin’ ya that even some of you longtime fans of his music would never expect or see coming.  Like – even myself included – I know a little bit about the guy from a few behind the scenes chats – and what little I do know, would have me tellin’ ya he’s just about the nicest dude you’re ever gonna run into in this lifetime of ours – because that’s genuinely the truth, he is.  That being said – he’s a fucking human being too!  And he is not going to be that amazing nice guy every single day of his life, because that would be freakin’ EXHAUSTING to live up to…and he’s not the kind of guy to fake how he’s feeling.  Need proof of that do ya?  Push play on “Winter (Outbreak)” and I promise ya, you will learn quickly that the man holds literally nothing back as he verbally punches you the proverbial ‘new one’ right through your speakers.  Damien ain’t just mad here – he’s fucking furious – ready to cut ties with what was and move on into the future, perhaps no better said than the man puts it himself at the very end of the incredible conclusion “Winter (Outbreak)” has lyrically, where he spits out the venomous, but remarkably grounded line that says “there ain’t no such thing as the past, it don’t spend like cash – it ain’t current, see?  It don’t serve me.”  That’s gonna go down as one of the most brilliant, insightful, and relevant lyrics that any one of us is gonna hear in our ears this year.  The man speaks & spits the truth with a wild dose of aggression you don’t normally hear from the music of Damien Q…he’s fired up, explicit AF, and throwing verbal punches around hoping that they’ll land on any target that wants to fuck around and find out.  I’m a pretty easygoing cat at the end of the day…much more prone to digging songs fueled by melody…downright sappy stuff half the time, whenever I’m not listening to something that sounds like a broken answering machine that is.  I might get a bit of that latter half in the unique design of this cutting-edge beat he’s workin’ with perhaps – but the rest of what Q’s created here, would NORMALLY be found fairly outside of my typical realm of personal preference…so HOW did I become so damn addicted to this?  “Winter (Outbreak)” has all the subtle seething intensity of a one-man Rage Against The Machine…it might appear low-key, but this track hits harder than hard from start to finish, 100%.

Listen.  Regardless of how you do or you don’t feel about “Solstice (Run Run Run)” – you have GOTTA appreciate the design and how a song like this really comes to exist.  When you hear how very few cues Damien takes from the music here, it’s nearly like he’s singing overtop of an instrumental soundtrack and completely oblivious to it…that’s how sparingly it really seems to link up, but also ends up revealing the strengths of his lead performance, carrying the vast majority of the weight of this song on his shoulders.  What do they call that sound he’s working with…that’s a…’tempered piano’ I believe, is it not?  Whatever that is, is pure freakin’ genius too…but it’s nearly like I’m listening to it on a completely separate level of its own as I listen to “Solstice (Run Run Run)” with so few tangible spots where it seems like Damien Q and the music were in perfect harmony.  That being said…and perhaps credit to his true intentions in the design of how he’s written this song – the moments where “Solstice (Run Run Run)” and it’s music & vocals fit together hand-in-glove, you practically get shivers down your spine, because those moments, while few, are perfectly executed…when things line up as they should, you always feel it.  And don’t get it twisted, don’t get me wrong – it’s not like Damien isn’t succeeding with everything he’s set out to achieve – he’s not off the mark, he’s right where he should be in the flow, sounds great, and his metering & flow is all spot-on…he knows what I mean; he’s set himself up to color outside of the lines on “Solstice (Run Run Run)” with any melody he could have chosen to create overtop of the music, and that purposeful deviance in the design is probably going to present a natural challenge or two for the listeners out there, because it does throw you a little bit as a result of Q’s artistic intentions.  I ain’t complaining though…if I have to listen to this song with two heads and four ears, I’ll find a way – I think the moments where everything seems to come together for just that extra exquisite fragment of melody to be revealed in between the music & vocals, truly makes for a moment worth waiting for, every time.  Damien sings this song with a lot of uniqueness and a whole lotta soul too…between that and the largely interpretive value in the lyricism in terms of what this song may or may not be about, and the stunning sonic texture to the melody of the tempered piano sound alongside him…I mean…this is highly artistic stuff for sure – but in my opinion, really mesmerizing stuff to listen to.  Full of powerful emotion in his voice, you can hear the energy surge through Q as he sings as the moment takes hold and he revisits the imagery he’s laying out to us through his lyricism…he gets right into this cut, and as a result, you will too.

“Spring (Love Is Grateful)” is more of a return to the spirit of the man you know.  Set in an enveloping ethereal melody that’s once again extremely minimalistic in design, but also highly effective once more too – I like where this is going for sure, but I do think there’s still a ways for it to go as of yet.  Basically, if we’re examining the nuts and bolts of it all, I don’t just think it’s a good song – it’s a great song, without question if I’m being honest with ya – the music is absolutely jaw-dropping amazing, the vocal melody has the right design, and the ideas are brilliantly inspired, beautiful, and endearing in all the right ways.  Did Damien get the maximum potential that exists in the melody of his vocals here?  That might be the more debatable point to be had here…I think “Spring (Love Is Grateful)” has a few rough edges in between the layers that could be easily sorted out on his end, and I think he’s got a song that’s certainly worth the effort to do that.  Y’all know I’m more than fine with the occasional oddness here & there, or note that goes astray…I’ve got a lot of empathy for singers and how tough it truly is to get things perfect – but I’m also all about doing what suits the song the most at whatever the cost.  “Spring (Love Is Grateful),” with its dreamy vibes, is practically begging and calling out for that similar smoothness and delicate approach with the vocals as well…and rounding out the corners of this song would go a long way in making this whole idea snap together as it should in my opinion.  I’d be thinking perhaps a bit softer in the vocals…maybe even whispers if I’m bein’ real with ya…there’s no doubt that there are a few layers in what Damien’s singing in this tune that are right on the money, but there are a couple points here and there where the occasional combination will result in a flatter tone that snaps us outta the moment…and to me, the moment itself, is everything here.  I’m a HUGE fan of what I heard in “Summer (Liquid Glass)” for sure…but I think the potential that exists in “Spring (Love Is Grateful)” could rival or even exceed how I felt about the opening track on this record…it’s by far & away one of my favorite ideas from Damien Q that I’ve personally heard & experienced, but I do think he can get more out of it.  The whole song as it stands is still really incredible, don’t get me wrong…”Spring (Love Is Grateful)” plays like this meditative mantra that has the purest intentions of filling your soul with a lil’ more light & love.

You gotta admire the ambition AND the achievement – Damien Q set out to do things differently, and that’s undeniably what he’s accomplished with this new record, to great effect.  A track like “Equinox (To The Mind That Is Still)” works its magic on you through the uniqueness of its instrumentation and ideas as one…almost like the chillest form of IDM you’ll find out there on the market today, this track makes your whole cortex light up from the inspired creativity in the sound on display.  For the first two & a half or so, Damien gives you all kinds of sensational vibes that connect for the passion just as much as the purity of the exploratory & adventurously spirited sound…and the transition into the smoothness in the middle of this song?  C’mon y’all – that’s the cherry on top at that point – “Equinox (To The Mind That Is Still)” is as cunningly inventive as it is innovative and straight-up interesting to listen to – Damien’s played this record really cleverly by having it bookended with two instrumental-based cuts.  This last track might be more for the real dedicated audiophiles out there as opposed to the ol’ mainstream listeners, but heck man, that’s obviously A-OK in my world over here – this track is right up my alley, and I felt like it was a perfect conclusion to the Seasons EP that hit all the right notes for its creativity and sound.  For the low-end and the percussion in this track alone, I guarantee you’ll find just about everything you’re looking for right there to begin with, never mind all the other awesomeness in the air surrounding it!  There’s not a doubt in my mind that, track after track, Damien Q has shown us some of his absolute best to-date on this EP – and in many ways, likely illuminated his path forward from here.

Listen to more music by Damien Q at his official page at Spotify here:  https://open.spotify.com/artist/7g9Vaj4bdBRc5YrYuWKfV6

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Jer@SBS

http://sleepingbagstudios.ca

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