Richard Davis: Details

Tim O'Neil

This is a minimal house record recorded with a deep house sensibility, and fastened to a sincerely gorgeous pop framework.

Richard Davis


Label: Kitty Yo
US Release Date: 2005-06-21
UK Release Date: Available as import
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate

In the absence of any overarching narrative or distinctive dominant "scene" in the modern electronic music landscape, the primary focus for many artists appears to be the gradual synthesis of disparate subgenres. No area of popular music is more rigidly -- and maddeningly -- delineated than electronic music, with dozens upon dozens of minute microgenres having sprung up out of the rich and loamy digital soil. It was inevitable that the same scene that spent two decades building unassailable walls between microscopically different niches would eventually tear down those same walls in the name of cross-pollination.

If anything in electronic music can be said to have been a "breakout" success during the last year and a half, it would probably be the minimal techno-house genre exemplified by the output of Germany's Kompakt label. Besides being the subject of SPIN magazine's first significant electronic music feature in many years, they've received quite a bit of attention from the underground music press as well. But in the meantime the current vanguard has slipped into the public domain, and the inevitable hybridization has begun.

With Details, Richard Davis is picking up where he left off with Swayzak's superb Loops From the Bergerie, released last year. That album represented a significant step forward for the group by welding the cool melancholy of the recent Scandinavian invasion to a club-friendly house structure (although that doesn't really explain "Speakeasy", the oddball Loops track that made it onto that ubiquitous Motorola commercial last year). Davis was one of the featured voices on Loops and he applies the same aesthetic here, only moreso. This is a minimal house record recorded with a deep house sensibility, and fastened to a sincerely gorgeous pop framework.

This album is as clear and crisp as a cool afternoon in September. The real masterstroke is Anna Stark's cello: although it only appears on three tracks, it sets the tone for the entire album. Somber and sober while simultaneously warm and vivid, the cello bridges the conceptual gap between the arch modernism of minimal techno and the plaintive qualities of Davis' very human voice.

"Honest" leads off the album, and it's a perfect example of Davis' subtle and emotive songwriting. The track begins with a quiet synthesizer note fading in and out of the air, accompanied by a mordant three-note piano melody. Then the beat begins, along with Davis' voice. The simple piano melody carries through the entire track, underscoring Davis' singing and serving as a counterpoint to the computerized burbles and burps which eventually fill the track's mid-range. The cello enters on "The Truth", playing a discordant and affecting motif over the deep house framework. The juxtaposition between "cold" technological sound and "warm" analog creates a fascinating dynamic throughout the album.

Davis' tracks are often deceptively complex, with multiple layers of sound coexisting in a perfectly crystalline structure that belies the fervid activity beneath the surface. Usually, disparate elements are introduced into the mix one-by-one, going almost unnoticed until you realize that the numerous small elements -- synth washes, keyboard arpeggios, small rhythmical elements -- add up to create a significant, if intricate sound. Take "This Time", for example, which utilizes the repetition of a single tinny guitar riff as a rhythmical device in counterpoint to a more conventional bassline. The melody is actually carried by a very simple two-note synthesizer pattern in the background, but all the other bits contribute to a surpassingly effective composition.

"Others" features Stark's cello a languid in duet with Michael Lapuks' dobro. "Hear This" is a fierce stomping house number that could probably make it as a single. The album finishes with the uncharacteristically heavy "Bring Me Closer", the beat of which bears a slight resemblance to one of Deep Dish's more robust rhythms. It builds to a terrific crescendo of cello and synthesizer, eventually ending with a sweeping fade-out.

Details is an eminently gorgeous album that achieves a great deal through suspiciously subtle means. Richard Davis has crafted an affecting and ingenious rebuttal to those who would question the efficacy of house music as a medium for emotive songwriting.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.