Having been prepared for Christopher Dallman’s evolution from more traditional singer-songwriter into a creator of chilled, electronic-pop thanks to his exquisite single So High, I now find myself in the fortunate position of having a full album of such deft creations before me. Digital Blue, which will be unleashed on the public in about a week, is nothing less than a masterful take on pop music. In such a crowded market it pays to find your own take on the genre, a signature sound, a unique selling point and Digital Blue is certainly a fantastic example of someone ticking all of those boxes.
But I guess the term pop only goes part way to explaining what is going on here and any notions of perky and predictable throwaway tunes, perhaps designed for dance routines and a quick buck, should be banished immediately. Dallman has little time for following fad or fashion, he’s too busy forging his own path. Although built around a pop core, the music often has the feel of the early hours, chill down session at the most exclusive and cutting-edge nightclub. To this he adds cool electronica, drifting dream-pop vibes and no small amount of soul. And the results are glorious, cinematic and wonderfully original.
LIghtspeed sets the scene perfectly, offering a brief blast of Blade Runner-esque cinematics before dropping into some sparse yet confident dance-pop structures, thus neatly touching both ends of his sonic palette in the first few seconds. There are moments of heart-tugging reflection such as the slow-burning No Sense in Regret, shimmering sweetness with So High which sounds like one prediction of soul music’s future and glitchy experimentalism as typified by Time of My Life.
The title track is an infectious number which perhaps comes closest to what the pop pack might recognise but even this is neatly crafted, perfectly polished and for all it’s digital qualities glows with the warmth of humanity which comes from Dallman’s fantastic voice. When it kicks up a gear and heads towards its logical, instrumental conclusion, it is about as good as futuristic alt-pop gets and feels like the play out score to a deep and thoughtful sci-fi movie, music to be absorbed as the credits roll and the heroes drive off into the twin sunsets.
As So High hinted, it’s a fantastic album, one which seems to change the direction of pop music without seeming to work very hard to do so. And that all comes down to the editing ability of the artist. Less is more, for sure, but here it is Christopher Dallman’s ability to select a few essential sonic lines and musical structures, and position them perfectly which wins the day. Filling the musical canvas with hazy, translucent sonic washes only delivers transient and nondescript ambient music but drawing sparing but confident lines that allow the light to get in and atmospheres to gather and percolate of their own accord is a much more admirable skill. One that Christopher Dallman is clearly a master of.