Review Summary: Susurrations of the spirits
With One Thousand Wings
, Dan Tompkins’ first foray into the realms of trip hop was one that could be defined as inquisitive, extending tendrils of curiosity into several different styles. Whether the approach seemed scattershot would have depended on your interpretation of the album’s framework; White Moth Black Butterfly had opted for a general binding of introspective, spiritual themes to unite a disparate collective of songs. Ranging from bombastic Brit-pop to a vaguely Oriental-sounding piano ballad, One Thousand Wings
was held together by sheer ambition as much as it was by an intuition for compact songwriting.
, though, firmly resides in the singular world that it has created. Lucidity percolates through its cool synthesizer washes and cavernous spaces; it bears a strong sense of self, bares its identity as a being of the wild born from inorganic and organic. This particular marriage of traditional instruments to electronic resonance births some intriguing aspects: a variety of strings paint the background, and “The Sage" even incorporates guzheng, adding an exotic splash of colour. Certain songs could be said to be more pointillistic, dotting their canvases with a palette of glitching sounds and abbreviated vocal passages. Atone
can afford to be more impressionistic, less upfront; its forbearance speaks for itself, as does its overarching cohesiveness.
is simultaneously reduced and grandiose. Overlooking its abundant dispersion of notes that drift and linger, it is quite minimalistic in its composition. Harmonizing layers wrap themselves around cores of restrained, hymnal melodies. The uncanny echoes of “An Ocean Away” and “Symmetry” evince dark swirls of atavistic spirituality - they stand in stark contrast to songs that find themselves bathing underneath more light. But where One Thousand Wings
had faltered in utilizing parts of its softer self, such as with the overwrought “Midnight Rivers”, Atone
excels with subdued hues; “The Serpent” weaves gossamer, propelled by a discreet rhythmic backbone that hints at latent turmoil but coyly leaves itself only half-unfurled.
But there is an element of Atone
that is rather prominent in the foreground, escaping its generally reserved nature. The twin vocals of Dan Tompkins and Jordan Bethany are conspicuous presences, and are, or at least aspire to be, the lynchpins of Atone
. The ethereal tones of Jordan imbue into the record an otherworldly iridescence, and her contribution feels remarkably organic - on a textural level it succeeds at melding in with the airiness of Atone
’s more delicate moments, and acts as a dynamic foil during sections of primal reverberation. However, Dan’s vocals are considerably more discrete - their placement, front and centre, insinuates some specific, though undefined, importance attributed to them. Not much dispute will be found about the quality of his voice - his technique is striking, his timbre sonorous. Yet some may be wary about how he distracts from or competes with the richness of the instrumentation. The point of saturation is never quite reached, though it is slightly paradoxical that Dan, in his muted lower registers, strikes harder than he does while crooning in his signature falsetto.
feels so complete, so whole, especially when seen in light of White Moth Black Butterfly’s past efforts. Hollow has become vast, languor is now a knowing patience. One Thousand Wings
seems contrived in comparison - a false believer now pitted against the actual spirits that he purported to worship. Atone
arises from the depths to cleanse the sins of the past.