Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Black Malachite, the artistic moniker of Dalton DuBois. He’s got a brand new self-titled album out now on Bandcamp. This latest collection of songs from the artist marks the third release under the Black Malachite name since last July, so he’s a fairly prolific act. Is ‘Black Malachite’ a record worth having in your collection of indie music? Let’s delve deep into it and find out!
DuBois’ project is rooted heavily in experimentation within instrumental, electronic-infused landscapes. Clocking in at ten tracks, it’s an ambitious excursion through a compelling array of musical styles. Even though he doesn’t directly cite it, there’s a thick rock influence at play on the album, too - something that’s immediately apparent on the opening tune, ‘These Highways Belong To Us.’
That introductory track offers a glimpse into the stylings of Black Malachite: real instruments combined with electronic vibes. The end of the track reaches a cataclysmic finale that incorporates a bevy of synthesizers, but not before it jams its way through a fantastic session of electric guitar and acoustic drum kit banter. It’s a remarkably engaging performance, opening the album with one of its strongest efforts.
‘Crimson Dream’ continues in that direction, albeit in a much more melancholy, soft-spoken way. The beautiful track puts a simplistic, but lovely electric guitar riff at its center, which then allows DuBois to circle around it with intricately woven synthesizer musings. ‘Midnight Moves’ is another surreal effort, one that actually pulls in acoustic and steel guitar performances. It’s a brilliant song; I love the collision not only of genres, but of instruments that typically aren’t combined.
The ominous ‘Dark Love’ lives up to its name, showcasing a distortion-filled, minor-key soundscape chock-full of brooding intensity and emotion. Perhaps most interestingly, though, the track shifts into a spine-tingling vocal sample section around 2:10. This haunting atmosphere is short-lived, however, since ‘Liquid Dreams’ provides a bright, very electronic-centric track in the next selection of the sequence.
The pinnacle of ‘Black Malachite’ is arguably ‘Her,’ a piano ballad of sorts that’s so deeply gorgeous. The composition isn’t just stunning, the production surrounding it accents it splendidly. It’s the perfect example of this LP being one that’s best consumed on a quality set of headphones or monitors. In my studio, the subtle sounds of the oncoming storm on ‘Her’ were breathtaking, something you may miss on $10 earbuds.
‘Sunset Sky’ is a spiritual successor to ‘Liquid Dreams,’ in a way, as its another very synth-heavy tune that aligns closer to traditional electronica music. ‘Liquid Dreams’ sounds like a song you’d listen to in the daytime. It’s bright, happy, and especially excited in nature. ‘Sunset Sky,’ true to name, sounds like a song you’d listen to when the world gets a bit darker.
‘Reliance,’ another song on this album that utilizes more recognizable electronic stylings, is one of the better tracks that does so. There’s a unique sense of urgency to the song; I can’t help but feel that it's a song that’s best served either in a work-out playlist or on the soundtrack to ‘Goldeneye’ on the Nintendo 64. It’s also the perfect set-up to ‘Follow Me,’ a short, but fascinating track that’s an interlude of sorts before the album’s finale.
‘The Taker Pt. II’ is final entry on ‘Black Malachite,’ and it’s one of its most complex at nearly five and a half minutes in length. It’s an ingenious ending, in truth, because it combines everything together that makes the nine tracks leading up to it so very superb. There’s a presence of acoustic instruments like the piano, but that’s accentuated by a hip hop-like beat. Electric guitars seep into the song toward the halfway point, and they’re complemented by soft, waterfall-esque synthesizers.
By the time ‘The Taker Pt. II’ reaches its final moments, the listener is treated to a short tidbit of everything that was so enjoyable leading up to this final song. That’s most certainly the beauty of Black Malachite’s new album; it’s the very definition of multifaceted. There’s something for everyone on this record. If you hate ‘Liquid Dreams,’ you may adore ‘Her.’ If you’re not a fan of ‘Her,’ ‘These Highways Belong To Us’ may enamor you, and so on.
There are two very hard things to do for any music artist. Firstly, a long instrumental record can be a challenge to keep interesting and engaging throughout. I’ve gotten many an instrumental album across my desk that fades into obscurity after its third track. ‘Black Malachite’ is completely engaging through and through. Second, it’s very hard to defy the structure of well-established genres and mix and mash them successfully. Black Malachite has done that, too.
Go pick up this album. For seven bucks on Bandcamp, it’s a steal. Plus, if you buy it on Bandcamp, you can get high res FLAC files, and this is one of those indie records worth listening to with good files on a good sound system. It’s the complete package - hell, even the album art is some of the finest I’ve seen in the last year. I rarely laud a record like this here on the Spotlight, but ‘Black Malachite’ deserves it. Check it out below.