Review Summary: Tell me what you see...We can start by working on your expectations
Close your eyes
Feel the seat underneath you
Feel yourself sinking down into it…
It’s a nice feeling
What you feel is a pleasant warmth…
Your breath is deep…
Imagine you’re at Eden
Imagine you arrived at Eden through the woods
Tell me what you see…
Based in St Albans, it’s easy to imagine Dan Richmond walking around the darkened streets at night, feeding off the history etched into the cobblestones, breathing in the tumultuous evolution of the town by way of its centuries-old foundations that have surely weathered many a storm. Building this relationship between the man and his music becomes an almost too obvious connection as his work has always been defined by a similar insular suffering of changing seasons and all that has come to pass with the march of time. Churches that have sheltered, comforted and nurtured bathed in amber spotlight against the jet black canopy of the night, fortifications now reduced to wreck and ruin and stained with the tarnished memories of battle and loss, the clock tower with its fingertips on the heavens above – Richmond’s music is a monument to these landmarks, a tributary to that which has also sheltered him. As an extension of that which has also defined him, Clubroot has always felt like a project that’s harbored its own quiet storms, thanks in large part to the atmosphere it painstakingly recreates down to its moody isolationism, a separation that feels diplomatic only by the acknowledgment of its unavoidable acceptance.
was a simmering melting pot of low slung garage and nods to the aggression of Ed Rush & Optical, trimmed of fat and burnt at 140bpm, a slow burning gem of introspection and self-exploration muted to distant and faded blacks and whites. II-MMX
tunneled deeper into the past, cooling the hot temper of his brooding debut with flashes of brilliant, almost blinding color. At times still remarkably sinister but also melancholic, its foot dragging in weariness at trying to keep up with the torrential outpouring of emotion. As the concluding chapter to this self-titled trilogy, and the entry that will ultimately be viewed as the defining segment of his story by virtue as its role in finality, III-MMXII
falls somewhere in between its two predecessors. Its percussive orchestra of shuffling hi hats, deep pronounced pads and rattletooth spray can accompaniment are as pervasive and deadly as ever whilst still retaining the chainbox melodies and symphonic sweeps of his last outing to even more dramatic effect, the contrast acting as two distinctly different identities now blurred into one. For Richmond as the man at the end of a journey, the finish line robs him of pretense and evasion, now he stands revealed in the role that has defined him, living in both worlds, through the looking glass and beyond.
If ‘Low Pressure Zone’ and ‘Orbiting’ were hints at the world beyond the window, a brief glimpse allowed through the mercy of a breeze then ‘Ennio’s Eden’ is forced re-entry, immersion of the highest degree. As meditative reflection at the crossroads of the past and future its use of the always optimistic Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist
is luridly dichotomic, acting as both friend and snake charmer, signaling the descent into oblivion ahead. And it’s a forewarning of the utmost conviction; the cataclysm of the album’s red giant artwork is matched in fury by Richmond in ways that he’s only ever hinted at in the past. The pummeling heartbeat of ‘Demon Drum’, the throb of ‘Inviolable’s almost r&b leaning halfstep, the snarling shards of bass that cut through ‘Lurking In The Shadows’ like glass – this is Clubroot at his most insistent, his most crowd-pleasing. Even his expanded use of vocals in ‘Demon Drum’, ‘Restraint’ and ‘Lurking In The Shadows’ fail to provide much-needed comfort; instead he turns the tables on their complacency, strangling them into mutated garbles and lost transmissions. Stuttering and pitch-shifted, he robs them of their identity but not their intent, making them suffer in broken prayer.
Even when Richmond appears at his most taciturn with the sweeping nostalgia of ‘Left-Hand Path’ or the broken halo of ‘Faith In Her’ can he not help but reveal the malignant menace just waiting in the wings. If ‘Left-Hand Path’ is the exploration of that treasured Eden, ‘Summons’ is the cautionary warning against that which seems so magnificent, rendering the waiting discoveries as illusory, a shaman’s farce; wide-eyed wonder now becomes threatening, evil. And when Clubroot brings those hopeful and lilting melodies back in ‘Inviolable’, that which seemed so innocent is revealed as diabolical, the perfect accompaniment to his snarling, malevolent….. his suffocating
compulsion. The painter’s palette is still the same, but the brush strokes are now far more defined, more nuanced, dripping with loss, love….. life
. On album closer ‘Restraint’ he can’t help but avoid sinking into the moody blues, achingly holding back, treasuring its namesake by keeping its cards close to its chest, staying his hand from the inevitable goodbye. And then like a puff of smoke, the last breath of the day…. fade to black
is many things: it’s Richmond’s most subtle, most effective outing to date. His most assured, seemingly most comfortable piece of work; gone are the reactions and the portraits of landscapes caught in the fury of a storm or sunset. In its place is progression, diligence… songs
replacing intuition. A warmer embrace now surrounds the sterile hostility of the alien voids that Clubroot has captured so perfectly in the past; now he’s no longer a stranger amidst the debris and the ruin. The tunnels and back alleys he walks through are now unmistakably his, and with that acceptance, that familiarity and that confidence has Clubroot crafted his most immaculate outing to date.