Daughn Gibson Me Moan(Sub Pop) Buy it from Insound
One thinks of identity whenever there’s any doubt about where one belongs or has been. To begin to understand Dauhgn Gibson’s conceptual framework requires this outlook, especially since the barren, transformative quality of his compositions are clearly defined with a sense of experience and acumen. The Carlisle, Pennsylvania arranger emotes with a skewed perception of reality, of splicing and deconstructing looped sound snippets that illustrate blurry landscapes in perpetual movement. It is consonant with the long road he’s trekked, sweating one odd job after the other with the long view of making ends meet. He’s certainly not the first to stand alone on top of a stage with a laptop and an M-Audio controller, yet he’s one of the few that treats the setup as a valuable necessity instead of a randomized accessory. It’s certainly an intellectual endeavor, but one that’s principally meant to be felt.
Gibson first caught the attention of a few with his overlooked debut effort All Hell, a proudly abstruse effort infused with a noirish ambiance that somehow managed to also honor the traditions of baroque Americana. His deep, throaty baritone is irrefutably a modern incarnate of Lee Hazlewood; and just as Hazlewood confidently played a caricature of himself, Gibson also succumbs to the occasional frivolity regardless of his exceedingly serious demeanor. His robust frame and tall stature are just some of the qualities that peg him as a rugged, modern-day cowboy, a self-reliant man who works the cattle to survive and will most-definitely lament about a lost love over a beer. Except that he comes across more as a cosmic cowboy, capable of peering into the future with his strangely modulated sample effects. He doesn’t need to adjust to this guise – he dons an understated, stoic mystique that just comes natural to him.
Me Moan picks right where All Hell left off with the menacing chill of The Sound of Law, in which he decrees the concrete wilderness with a sense of belonging. The warped guitar trembles with unease as he rips through the road with a fearless heart, the sight of a nonconformist filled with a rush of excitement. His poise keeps you in a state of submission, and as the locked groove of Phantom Rider attests, its rippling, processed finger snaps and esoteric angelic voices raise the stakes regardless of whether you’ve buckled up or not. There’s a deeply entrenched electronica motif throughout these songs that are borderline kitsch, except that Gibson’s sweeping masculinity topples any hokey lavishness - the dirge-y liquid swoon of anguished ballad Franco and the gritty, militaristic percussion ticks of The Right Signs are both examples of outré electronic flourishes that are never broken out of their shell, compromised to fit Gibson’s imprudent creativity.
Me Moan does gradually smooth some of its rough edges as it heads into its second half, and even flirts with a more traditional compositional approach as well. The palatable melodic arrangements of Won’t You Climb are explicitly middle-of the-road in execution, with a seventies L.A. rock feel that would’ve been exposed to ridicule if not for its mystifying choral samples and haunting use of steel guitar. More confounding is how “average Joe” the honky tonk of Kissin’ On the Blacktop sounds, which, marketed correctly, could very well become a left-field hit snug in between Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan in the hot country charts. A momentarily hiccup that’s quickly redeemed with All My Days Off, a winding ballad loomed with the dreary glow of a descending sunset.
There’s something to admire about Gibson’s genre-bending antics, how he manages to assemble all these disparate elements out of scrapped parts. His limitless curiosity certainly knows no bounds, and yet he ends the album on a familiar note – the looped piano fragment and breezy guitar chords of Into the Sea unfold with a refined flair that’s familiar to the dusty saloon solace of All Hell. It’s certainly the appropriate way to end a record that gradually pacifies after its dissenting first half. To achieve cohesion in the abstract is almost unheard of, which he does achieve, and yet the most troubling piece of Me Moan is what’s supposed to be the most foolproof – Gibson’s baritone, which is either exaggerated to a significant degree and other times unfit for all its scathing textures. In spite of this, Me Moan is a challenging effort that rewards as much as it confounds, and really doesn’t bring us anywhere closer to understanding Gibson’s true guise. It doesn’t help that he’s constantly on the run, but trying to figure out his next move is certainly worth the effort.9 July, 2013 - 20:20 — Juan Edgardo Rodriguez