As was immediately apparent to anyone who heard Boy.Inside, D.Ni.L doesn’t work like most musicians. He is a collector of sounds, a collage-maker, an arranger and whereas most musicians chose to work with the tools of one or two genres to create their signature sound, here it is the very genres which are being bent to his will. But it is one thing to draw all of those disparate sounds together, it is quite another to find a way to splice them constructively into a working end product. It is D.Ni.L’s ability to weave these often conflicting and colliding sonic servings together that makes him stand out from the crowd.
Analogue Bath, which kicks this latest collection off, is the perfect example of what he does. A blend of nu-metal grit, street rap vocals, chiming electronica and soaring stadium crescendos – a sort of dark opposing force to balance the likes of Linkin Parks iconic and anthemic sounds but whereas they rode out on a wave of commercial alternative rock, D.Ni.L exists in a darker back-street world, one that is more angular and rough edged, more real and raw and possible more English. And of course having heard that opening salvo and thinking that you have his sound sorted in your own mind, nothing could be further from the truth and the album runs through musical twists and sonic turns to keep the listener guessing.
Do You Know Who I Am? might have a fractured, jagged-edged, alt-rock sound at its core but it is the extremes that this is pushed to which creates the character. Let The Side Down wanders down some confessional and soul-searching gothic-rap meets dystopian rock pathways and the fact that I have to start making up such unlikely and singular genres to try and capture the essence of what is going on here tells you a lot about the uniqueness of the compositions. Proving that not everything has to leave a musical scar on the listener, Running follows smoother lines, or at least less jarring, capturing the same insular and intelligent instinct that has kept the likes of The Manic Street Preachers on the more interesting side of things even after commercial success came their way.
Sweet Man plays with that tried and tested post-punk device of the loud/quiet dynamic, the power and poise, drive and deftness dichotomy and the result is exactly the sort of song that alt-rock is looking for at the moment. Something that straddles cultishness and commercially, a song that sits, perhaps uncomfortably in the genre, or indeed any genre, but which still finds a way forward beyond the conformity and adherence to fad and fashion that seems to have become the norm. Melt blends the proggy instincts of Muse with the brutality of any number of screamo bands and Under My Wing seems to reference a more seventies pop-rock sound but obviously gets put through the appropriate blender to come out the other side as strange.mercurial and unpredictable as you would expect from this artist.
Again it is an impressive work. One that references many past scenes, not least nu-metal, grunge and the earlier, more interesting alt-rock beginnings and uses that to build something that sounds like the first indication I have heard of late that rock music in general has an interesting future. It is sweet and sour, deft and delicious, aggressive and soothing, it is a pile of contradictions, is far from predictable and leaves you with as many questions as answers. Art imitating life? And why not?