Dharmonic Deluxe – ‘Golden Arrow’ Album Review

There is, far from light and life, a distant, remote place where Nick Cave sits alone on a desert island, with only a stylophone for company, recording music with members of Radiohead and Chrome Hoof. Sometimes he wears a dress made out of coconuts and sometimes he dances with a monkey and all the time a Super Nintendo purrs away in the background, churning out 8-Bit sounds that swirl around him in a garish swirl of colours, occasionally coalescing into some semblance of a tune you once heard inn an elevator whilst moonlighting with Nina Simone (who, incidentally, has adopted a strangely British accent with which to duet with Mr Cave)… and that, ladies and gentleman, is the sound of Dharmonic deluxe in a convenient nutshell; or at least being as close as you can get to the band’s wilful insanity whilst simultaneously describing them not at all; but then what do you expect from a band who gleefully send you their work whilst challenging your adjectival abilities at the same time? Dharmonic Deluxe are nothing if not unique.

Let’s start with what we do know. Dharmonic Deluxe offer up a nine track, thirty-four minute journey into the heart of Nick Cave’s coconut waving insanity on ‘Golden Arrow’, an album that delights in defying expectations and revels in the unexpected. Chrome hoof are, probably, the most apt reference point from which to start when attempting to delineate the band’s varied and often disparate sonic palette. There are elements of pop, folk, rock, jazz, funk and more woven into Dharmonic Deluxe’s expansive musical tapestry, and, like magpies taking shiny objects, the band have chosen only the brightest and most intriguing moments with which to feather their own nest. Eclecticism is the watchword here and fans of bands such as Fantomas, Hipgnosis (the Polish progressive band rather than the Pink Floyd cover-designing art collective) and Mike Patton’s various solo works will find much to admire in the wonderfully colourful world that Dharmonic Deluxe inhabit. In terms of mood, this is music that feeds the soul and bursts forth with joy: joy at making music; joy at having the opportunity to let loose in a recording studio; joy at the power of the imagination and joy at reaching an audience, however large or small it may be. It is life-affirming, Captain Beefheart-loving, genre-destroying music that will undoubtedly irritate as many people as it attracts, but then such is the nature of twisted genius.

Opening with ‘intro’ – a brief electro whirlwind which sees the band trying out the synths they got for Christmas, ‘Deco Dance’, the first song proper, introduces the band’s pair of singers whose deeply incongruous voices work so wonderfully together over a thumping disco beat, nimble, funky guitar in the vein of Earl Slick and loopy synthesisers that add colour and depth to the analogue elements of the music. Lyrically the band’s approach is scattershot and yet intelligent – aping Bowie’s cut-up style – and delivering the words in the vein of Mike Patton performing Barry Manilow covers. Equally, the title track offers few clues as to a stable direction for the band as it sounds like circus music filtered through the Bad Seeds and shat out by Dog Fashion Disco – it’s cool, breezy and funky and overlaid with a horrendous stabbing Hammond organ sound that is both awesome and teeth-gratingly aggravating all at once – such contradictions abound throughout the record.

A personal favourite is the nimble ‘you’re friends won’t’ with its call-and-response vocals and groovy riffs that are one part Madness, two parts Divine Comedy. ‘Awesome never’, obviously, mixes up eastern influences via a cool, writhing guitar riff and sub-operatic vocals circa Kate bush for a track that grooves like Shaft in Afghanistan  (not actually a film fact fans) set to ‘Wuthering Heights’ before suddenly taking off on a weird progressive excursion that suggests the band are just as at home listenening to King Crimson as they are Tori Amos. ‘Matriarchetype’ is a short blast of skanking insanity that sounds like a Bloodhound gang outtake only with slap bass to die for, while ‘bound to the cross’ takes a similar tack with multiple vocal parts representing the voices in your head if your head represents a pink panther cartoon – it’s fun or mentally damaging: I’m not actually sure which, but you’ll have to remove a lobe to get it out of your head. The final two songs, ‘Greetings! From your future’ and ‘phantom’ represent ten minutes of the album’s run time between them, and do a grand job of rounding out the record on a suitably eccentric note, with the former taking almost two and a half minutes to even reach the vocals and the latter a creepy piece of mood music destined to haunt your dreams.

You are guaranteed to absolutely love Dharmonic Deluxe unless you hate them in which case their music may well be aptly described as a bag of cats sitting inside another bag, also full of cats, placed in a box of instruments, Swans and Fanotmas CDs, and dropped into a river. In fact, even if you love the band they might be described thusly. Certainly this is music that will irritate many people who come into contact with it, rather like stinging nettles, but for the few who enjoy having their senses tantalised by the musical equivalent of an electrified feather duster, this is a brilliantly inventive and wonderfully colourful way to spend three quarters of an hour. I can promise you nothing with this release apart from the fact that it exists. I think I can safely promise that… But nothing else…  No really. So…. to recap – Dharmonic deluxe are gloriously awesome, goofily brilliant and completely terrible. No one sounds like them (which may be a good thing) and yet they rock in a suitably unconventional way. I give up – just listen to them OK? You may or may not regret it, but what wonderful regrets they’ll be.

Don’t take our word for it, listen to Dharmonic deluxe here and let the insanity begin!


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