Although he has so far built his reputation on a sound very much in the acoustic, singer-songwriter genre, Christopher Dallman is also nothing if not open to exploration. So High, a calling card for his album Digital Blue, marks a deft change of direction. Here he blends relaxed electronica beats, cinematic soundscapes and the merest hint of jazz delicacy into a smooth and soulful slice of chilled, alternative, summer pop.
As the first beats set the sultry pace, you are greeted by is Dallman’s extraordinary vocal, a voice which seems part cool, effortless falsetto, part otherworldly and angelic. And it is the perfect counterpoint to the music which cuts under it, a blend of shimmering synths and gently pulsing bass, simple but effected percussive punctuation and meandering electronica. A worldly sonic safety net to match his soaring and sky-ward vocals.
We hear the term genre-bending used a lot in music today, which is only natural given that the tribalistic, gang mentality towards the art has been relegated to the past and artists and listeners alike have embraced a new, more broad-minded, post-genre approach to music. But many artists seem to think that this means that boundaries have to be pushed to extremes, that just because the lack of rule book means that you can splice conflicting musical forms into new, extreme fusions, you should. Dallman’s new sound feels far more like a coalescence rather than a clash of ideas, that he is weaving together complementary forms where-ever he may find them. And that in itself is genre bending, perhaps even genre inventing.
What he brings to this new take on electronic pop is delicacy. Not in the twee, floppy haired, bookish kind of way nor in the more ambient soundscaping sense but by weaving a gentle, intimate and even romantic thread around a deconstructed and minimalist pop core. So High is not soul music but it is soulful, wonderfully so. It isn’t pop music as such but its understated vibes are as infectious as anything else vying for the pop-dollar.
Dallman understands that electronica, the digital creation of sounds and all of those new technologies which people are bending to their new musical will, are just tools, a means to an end, the journey not the destination. What has always mattered, and continues to matter, is what is in the artist’s soul. Christopher Dallman seems to have such a gorgeous musical soul and So High is merely an extension of that.