[sic] Magazine

D.D Dumbo – Utopia Defeated

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Can you make easy-going pop with a world-beat bent and not forever be in Paul Simon’s shadow? D.D Dumbo is Oliver Hugh Perry and he wrestled with the question on his arresting debut EP, Tropical Oceans, largely getting away with it by favouring a strain of rhythmic folk fusion-gone-Animal Collective instead. Back then in 2013/4 the Australian had a knack of not letting his lilting African melodies dominate, but whether he was a loner striking it lucky or some kind of visionary remained unclear. In either case, Utopia Defeated proves him no one-trick pony, its contagious lead single, “Satan”, in particular. It’s the album’s longest cut and its crunchy beats, smooth synth pops and breathy funk land somewhere between Talking Heads and Wild Beasts, wind instruments decorating Perry’s uncanny vocal impression of Sting quite remarkably. It’s less an Englishman in New York, though, and more a case of an Aussie on cultural safari – and, no, during its chorus Perry isn’t declaring his undying love for the Beelzebub. The actual lyrics, though easy to mishear, are: “They don’t eat people / They don’t watch TV / Or worship Satan.”

Utopia Defeated’s ten tracks are well arranged, hands-off and uncluttered and it makes the album a clean listen. That said, the chaotic “Alihukwe” survives from the Tropical Oceans EP, its reworked calypso and off-kilter loops as singular as ever. In this vein, tasteful effects such as those used on the last tUnE-yArDs album chatter over classy synth-pop, weirdo white-boy soul reminiscent of Cold War Kids rubbing shoulders with flourishes of piano. More humble, “In The Water” is sub-three minutes of chilly folk, Perry’s fingers audible on the fret. Much of this overly smooth middle-order lacks bite, however, relying on the standout “Brother” to pep up the chaste run-time. A giddy track that heads into the Orient, trad strings sped up in loop formation, it’s full of the disquieting and unique qualities that first marked Perry out as one to watch and which are missing a little too often elsewhere. Utopia Defeated is, ironically enough given its title, a decent collection of songs that falls short of what it could have been only by trying to please too many people at once.

Best track: “Brother”

~Utopia Defeated is released October 7th 2016 via 4AD.~

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