It was a far cry from the show I was supposed to be at. With Interpol’s plans waylaid by Buffalo’s veritable wall of snow (I’m pretty sure they’re still stuck out there), I found myself making last minute plans. So, admittedly, I walked in on D.D Dumbo’s show without knowing much about the band or its music. Point of fact – I thought it was a band, not a one-man show. But there Oliver Hugh Perry was: alone on The Drake Hotel’s stage, flanked by a glass of wine and a healthy range of instruments.
I’ll get the tUnE-yArDs comparison out of the way right now but pointing to his looping work with the standard guitars and drums to oddities like a wind pipe and even a recorder. Yes, that’s correct: a recorder. You know. The instrument your second grade teachers forced upon you, much to the chagrin of your slowly-going-insane parents as you played out-of-tune renditions of “Little Brown Jug” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Thankfully, Perry navigated the instrument with more finesse than my sticky elementary school fingers ever achieved.
While there’s a richness on his recorded work (or at least his two tracks up on bandcamp) that isn’t quite replicated live, that may have more to do with the low turnout for Perry’s Canadian debut than anything else. Part of the problem was the weather: the temperature plummeting early this year and catching a lot of people off guard. As a result, hibernation was likely prioritized and D.D Dumbo’s set came and went with fairly little fanfare. Thankfully, it would prove to be worth the frostbite – accompanied by the nagging perception that this will be far bigger than his appearance at The Drake might otherwise suggest.
It’s fair to say that the hype machine hasn’t quite caught up to this project either. At least not yet. This isn’t wholly surprising (again, he’s only released a four-track EP), but it also isn’t unwelcome. He’s a young artist who’s still perfecting the landing. So far, it all seems to be progressing well, and it’s easy to believe this will eventually catch the ears and attention of people appreciative of its subtle references to desert-styled rock.
It’s varied, too, with tracks such as “In the Water” – a song about a whale with a nice life, Perry explained – playing more like an Antlers-esque ballad. Following numbers skittered more towards a blues-rock sound.
Perry himself is endearingly awkward (which I think is just an Australian thing?) and what he presents is captivating, ambitious, and decidedly complex. At points it was almost uncomfortable, tense, and jarring. Watching him, you got the feeling it could so easily teeter straight off the cliff of loops and effects and into a messy, out of time cacophony.
It didn’t, of course, and that speaks to his skill.
I’m not alone in thinking there’s something to this, either, with 4AD (the label home to Daughter, Bon Iver, The National, Future Islands, et al.) picking him up early on.
Which brings me, finally, to the thing that sells this. And I mean really sell this as a viable, worthwhile endeavour.
That’s where Perry’s voice comes in.
It’s something he delivers with ease. It’s comfortable sounding and it’s downright soothing – comparable to Canadian favourite Evening Hymns. It is the best part about D.D Dumbo and something he clearly knows how to highlight, ending the night with the upbeat highlight of “Tropical Oceans” and it’s looping “ohhhhs” over wandering guitar work and drums.
Credit where credit is due: anyone that can make me feel alright about missing Interpol is on the right track.