Looking a bit like Arcade Fire‘s Win Butler (had he decided to grow his hair long on one side and then paint a gigantic orange cross on his face) and supplementing his live show with gamepads, joysticks and Wii controls, Robert Delong has quietly become one of the most talked about musicians in electronic music.
A former drummer in a succession of struggling indie/folk bands, Delong discovered the rave scene in his teens and started to incorporate more and more dance influences into his songs, so much so that he’s almost the bridge between electro and indie-pop. Just Movement is his debut and follows hot on the heels of some much talked-about live shows, which show Delong incorporating loop pedals, synth, drum kits and the aforementioned gaming controls to create a pretty awe-inspiring racket.
Delong is the modern version of the one-man band – every single instrument on Just Movement is played by him, and there are no guest vocalists, just DeLong’s planative voice which most recalls, on more than one occasion, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie. Delong’s vocals make for a dramatic contrast with the music, which is mostly pounding beats, squelchy basslines and dubstep drops. Against the odds, it mostly works pretty well.
Delong’s signature track is probably the rather portentously titled Global Concepts, a huge dancefloor anthem which, after a deceptively quiet verse bursts into a shimmering chorus of noise on the line “Did I leave my life to chance… or did I make you fucking dance?”. Delong’s percussive background is referred to by an ever-present noise of clattering drums – and in case you’re wondering about the answer to that question: Yes, he will make you fucking dance.
Happy has an undeniably irritating keyboard riff which opens the track but soon settles down into a deliciously infectious track that seems destined to provide the soundtrack to many a festival this summer, while Complex By Degree ramps up the Gibbard comparisons, sounding like The Postal Service with its quiet little bleeps and gurgles bubbling underneath Delong’s lugubrious cry of “I am a human…I am an animal…I am primal and refined by time”.
Some of Just Movement isn’t so successful though. Religious Views may grab you by the scruff of the neck with its insistent beat, but an endlessly looped lyric of “be not afraid it’s just a game” soon proves to be… well, repetitive. Perfect is also rather throwaway, while the earnestness of much of the lyrics could grate on some, especially rather clunky lines like “the progress is your solution but cognitive evolution points to survival of the fittest” on Survival Of The Fittest.
Just Movement is an odd album, in the nicest possible sense of the word. It could prove to be too dance-orientated for the indie kids and too indie for the dancefloor. When it works though, it seems like the perfect segue between the two. It is an ambitious and often impressive debut which hints at good things for Delong’s future.