Review Summary: An ambitious and simply astounding debut, David Douglas channels his muse through an unorthodox avenue which evokes the timeless wonders of discovery and exploration.
Although the somewhat oddly titled debut EP from Utrecht-based producer David Douglas is what initially caught my attention, it was upon my first listen of the opening track California Poppy
that I knew this could be potentially end up on my best of the year list. The EP is inspired by the 18th century Scottish botanist who not only shares the same name as this 21st century beatmaker but is also inspired by the wonders of exploration and adventure that the botanist's life encapsulated. This bold and ambitious artistic endeavour could be seen at a glance of being gimmicky or pretentious but when listening to it, it feels like a such a genuine tribute to the man. It evokes the ideas of exploration along with the whimsical sense of discovery that any misgivings toward the reasoning of Douglas' muse are inconsequential when listening to his prodigious talent.
What impresses me the most is that the sound that Douglas has created feels incredibly established for a debut. He is confident and sure-footed in sweeping through variations of style while still maintaining an overall theme. Also the production is suitably impeccable from the Clockwork Orangesque intro of California Poppy
to the upbeat and soulful crooning of Follow the Sun
to the pulsing club beat of Athabasca Pass
. However, the track that sticks out the most for me is the closer, Mauna Kea
, which is a sorrowful and haunting piece that uses dissonant string and almost moaning vocal arrangements to evoke a sense of grief, which makes sense given that the title is the name of the mountain where the botanist met his mysterious and untimely death.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly how Douglas' sound fits besides his contemporaries, which is testament to his ability to secure a niche that will no doubt help elevate himself within the scene. I guess he could be compared to the likes of Schlomo or Sorrow but truthfully any comparison would be tenuous at best. I honestly have no idea how to compare artists such as this as I am no aficionado of the genre (or subgenre) But what is most noticeably different is that Douglas is less focussed on creating textual density and more on creating soundscapes coloured by a more organic palette and using more natural sounds while seamlessly stitching the beats and grooves together.
Royal Horticultural Society
is a very impressive debut effort. The concept especially works for an EP as the thematic ideas that permeate throughout the 27 minute journey are never dulled by repetition or are overburdened. Even if you only have the faintest interest in this type of music I highly recommend checking this out and I very much look forward to his future projects.