[3 December 2008]
Dark Captain Light Captain, as the name suggests, are in love with duality. They write about the light/dark, good/bad, right/wrong-type of dichotomies that people use (sometimes unfairly) to make decisions in the world. It never ceases to fascinate me how two people can interpret the same sets of facts in two entirely different ways. The thought processes behind these opposing decisions are obviously very different and involve a certain amount of emotional wrestling. London’s Dark Captain Light Captain explore this conflicted internal territory on their debut LP Miracle Kicker. Much artistic expression operates in this area, but what makes this push-and-pull so intriguing here is its execution in such a subtle and consistent fashion. The album seeps into your consciousness on the sly and reminds you that the uncertainty of life can be beautiful.
Despite seeing disappointment as an inevitable feature of existence, DCLC thankfully refuse to wallow too deep. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wallowing too deep in itself, but it just wouldn’t suit the more danceable features of what’s going on here. The 1960s harmonies, fingerpicked acoustic guitar, and brisk pace throughout the majority of the album suggest a resigned resolve in the face of adversity. References to “Problems that will be there anyway” and realizations that “She’s always after something / Like everyone we know” suggest a negativity and paranoia that the music constantly struggles against. Elongated, soaring vocals stacked with Dan Carney’s voice at the fore are backed by the full-spectrum of sound available when six people sing and play instruments at once. Although many musicians have trod the electro-acoustic path, DCLC succeed in making it sound intriguing. This is a headphones album where layers of sound are added and subtracted, often with deft precision. The outros of several tracks, such as on “Parallel Bars”, are the most stirring moments when the layers strip away to reveal the delicate components underneath. It is in these outros where the musical and intellectual haze of uncertainty dissolves into some kind of realization, however resigned.
The third track “Circles” features the stuttering, propulsive beat of Chin Keeler, formerly of Quickspace. He guides the DCLC ship with a steady, solid pair of hands (and feet). As the track approaches the one-minute mark, the straightforward beat shifts into something more off-kilter and Keeler’s crisp hi-hat work is something to behold. When the band tosses in these stylistic shifts amidst the folk, as they do again with the addition of an oboe on “Robot Command Centre”, they’re at their best. The synth of “Spontaneous Combustion” provides another welcome departure, as does the mournful horn intro on “Remote View”. At times, I wanted more of shifts in instrumentation and style to break with the fingerpicking and dense vocal layering that dominates the album. However, this notion is secondary to the overall effect of the tracks on this album. The wavelike melodies and hooks flow with a persistence that creates a subtle, but potent hypnotism. These songs wash over the ears and leave a watermark on the brain.
Miracle Kicker presents a clear artistic point-of-view through consistency and subtle suggestion (subtlety being the new aggressiveness, you know). The album presents the delicate balance of textures and emotions that inform the way we make sense of the world, in some grey fashion.