There I go again, books and covers. I look at the album art, the image of some otherworldly creature, the deep reds and blood-coloured hues and I think “here we go, buckle up for a world of metal riffs, showboating and over-earnest guys with beards and sleeveless band t-shirts making music that that has all of the grace of Sisyphus rolling that damn rock up the hill.” Well, nothing could be further from the truth, I’m glad to say.
Dropping the digital needle on the first track of the virtual album, Break, you get something completely unexpected. Joyful cascades of piano are ridden by spoken word samples and driven by gentle beats before anthemic and angelic banks of vocals turn this into something completely not of this world. All within the first few bars. Plain and plaintive vocals then take their place before the track heads off down glitchier and more adventurous paths. As an opening salvo, it covers a lot of ground, it also tells you a lot about what is about to follow, and in some ways leaves the possibilities wide open. Intrigued? You should be.
Sanctuary, which follows, similarly wanders between sweet and serene pop and industrial-infused alt-dance textures, feeling both fresh and adventurous in its concept and also familiar and accessible in its execution.
And these first songs pretty much lay out the wilful and wonderful conundrum at the heart of the music; a series of compliments and collisions, musical elements that both entwine themselves around each other in seamless perfection and can still jar and crash to create a sort of off-beat, angular beauty. Opposites that endlessly attract.
For too long, dance music has been happy to revisit old templates, and offer the obvious and the lowest common denominator. Why? Because dance music has long been seen as a throw-away medium, something that is all about the quick hit, the being in the moment, the fad, the fashion, the next musical high. What Derek offers is music which pushes the borders of dance, and explores, expands and evolves what the genre can even be.
In Upset we see an ambient, slow-groove wander hypnotically through the listeners’ consciousness. In a Lonely Sea is odd and beguiling, a dance track being subsumed into something strange, dark and delicious and The Moment is angular, glitchy and futuristic. But groove is the key. Isn’t it always? And at the heart of all of the tracks is a dance beat. Often not an obvious one. Sometimes not even a logical one. But always wandering somewhere between gentle energy and anthemic euphoria. Dance music this is, it is just not like anything you have heard before.
Derek is at turns dreamlike, challenging, accessible, infectious, thoughtful, beguiling, heady, headstrong, confident, reserved and always adventurous. When was the last time a dance record gave you all of that?