Entering the musical world of Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom involves setting aside what we’ve come to expect from James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy, the DFA production duo that can even squeeze a few dance-worthy beats into the claustrophobic din of Black Dice. For those who overlooked the thirteen-minute “El Monte” single and first took notice of Gonzalez and Russom thanks to the superb placement of a drum-infused “Rise” on the third disc of DFA Compilation #2, The Days of Mars will come as a bit of a surprise.
Crafting long compositions that build and bend through looping synthesizer sine waves, the New York transplants exist outside of the DFA’s typical club tracks. For that type of fare, the two perform under the name Black Leotard Front, whose “Casual Friday” single is possibly the best fifteen-minute song about relaxed dress codes. On The Days of Mars, the musicians stick with their self-constructed analog synths and assemble layers upon layers of live takes to fill out a moody sound that slowly grows and expands in a dizzying array of occasionally overwhelming impulse.
Even with the record’s lack of percussion (save that for the remix album), the electronic tones rhythmically pulse to create an interior beat that’s somewhat akin to a steady synthetic heartbeat. Burying it’s core a little deeper than the rest of the tracks, “13 Moons” steps away from this method, relying more on swelling ambiance and restrained keyboard melodies. But the album’s other three songs stick to the routine, with “Rise” almost acting as a template for “Relevee” to infuse with controlled energy and for “Black Spring” to interpret through a nightmarish lens.
The experience of listening to The Days of Mars from beginning to end is hypnotic. The album projects a cinematic feel of entering a fantasy dream world. With the record, the duo proves to be its own highly focused artistic presence, one that blends music with video, visual and performance art outside of its recorded work. It’s also one that is unconcerned with slipping into the DFA’s mold, allowing the production team to leave its mark at the mixing board as opposed to the compositions.
Stream selections from the record: http://www.emirecords.co.uk/players/generic/dfa/dfa1/playertest.html
Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom Web site: http://deliaandgavin.com/
DFA Records: http://www.dfarecords.com/
Prefix review: DFA Compilation No. 1, by Dan Carter: http://www.prefixmag.com/reviews/cds/V/VA/DFA-Compilation-No-1/358