Written by Satellite Man and Biggie Shmalls
We’re not trying to front, all of us here at Lost in Sound anticipated Emancipator’s new album Dusk to Dawn to be a great work of art. Now it seems that “great” was a drastic understatement. Doug Appling has been a longtime favorite of ours, since his first album dropped in 2006 when he was just 19 years of age. Soon it Will be Cold Enough was a success to say the least; it received massive praise in Japan where it sold over 5,000 copies in the first six months, landed him a Puma sponsorship, and his track “Maps” was even played at the Beijing Olympics.
So how, might you ask, has Emancipator been able to fly under the radar in the states all these years? Well that, my friends, is why we love him so much. His humble persona is constantly apparent, and even at a young age, he has never let success go to his head. You would think a young musician with such talent and international praise would blow up overnight and inevitably burn out just as quickly. Au contraire, Doug has kept his head down all along and has dedicated his time to mastering his craft, getting better and better at guitar as well as production. Just this past November, he founded his own label, Loci Records, which he used to release Dusk to Dawn. He is the definition of an underground legend, and he will most definitely continue on that path, creating the beautiful music we hold so dear.
To kick off the review, watch the beautiful music video for the album’s single, “Minor Cause”…
One key feature of Emancipator’s music: his songs evoke vivid imagery. Though his style of music on Dusk to Dawn may have changed in tempo and sentiment from his previous albums, he remains true to form in his ability to convey metaphors through song. When “Valhalla” comes on, I have to check my iPod at multiple points to make sure I’m still listening to Emancipator. This song could very well be a Bonobo track. With its faster tempo and trip-hop foundation, the song is layered with a hypnotizing violin melody, played by Ilya Goldberg, and sultry female vocals that cut in and out. Then, halfway through, he switches up the vibe and a deep groove kicks in. This one is definitely an undercover booty shaker and a personal favorite.
Side note: Throughout the album, Ilya Goldberg can be heard on violin at the forefront of many tracks. His contribution to the album is so glaringly obvious, we can’t help but assume that he will be accompanying Doug on tour (oh yeah!!).
“Merlion,” “Eve II,” and “Natural Cause” all embody the wistful, pensive feeling I’ve come to associate with Emancipator. Haunting vocal samples on “Merlion” and “Eve II,” as well as a poignant piano accompaniment on “Natural Cause” are the types of elements Doug adds to his music that can bring the listener to tears and the types of elements that pull you right into the world that he’s fashioned.
Both “Outlaw” and “Dusk to Dawn” together create an anecdote of an old country western. They put forth a bluesy vibe. I can hear the sound of a cowboy’s boots clicking against a hard-packed dirt road. “Dusk to Dawn” features what sounds like a soulful church choir, mixed in with the other elements: twangy violin melodies and fervent guitar riffs courtesy of our good friend Derek Van Scoten (D.V.S*).
It takes only seconds to realize that “The Way” prominently features Dominic Lalli (of The Motet and Big Gigantic) on saxophone. I’m less than surprised to hear him on this album, after his collaboration with Emancipator this summer at Camp Bisco XI (re: Emancipator and Friends – read our review here). Dom’s style is so distinct and so characteristic of his band, Big Gigantic. The saxophone almost overpowers the song, yet manages to incorporate the other aspects: a distant melodic whistling, a djembe drum, some unintelligible yet beautiful female vocals, congo trills, birds cawing and chirping, and voilà – production perfection. It is one of the most multi-faceted tracks I’ve heard in quite some time, all parts interweaved and layered to perfection.
The electronic aspect of Doug’s work has clearly improved from album to album. His last release, Safe in the Steep Cliffs (aside from Remixes), featured more of a variety of organic sounds and instrumentation, and Doug’s production skills were peeking their promising head. They came to fruition on Dusk to Dawn; while there is certainly no lack of variety when it comes to organic instrumentation, what stands out is the production. It’s clean, pristine and flawless – just another example of one mastering his craft.
There really can’t be enough said about Emancipator. Doug as a person, his music, his beliefs, and his live show all epitomize what we stand for and remind us of why we love this scene and the people that occupy it so much. Keep on eye on Loci Records. Mr. Appling doesn’t stand by music unless it’s truly something special, and we all look forward to what he has in store for us. Boston, New York, Stand UP! It’s time to be graced with the sounds of one of the best musicians our time has seen.
Read a great interview of Emancipator by Lauren Metter for Boston’s Weekly Dig HERE
Emancipator has hit the road in support of his new album, accompanied by the talented Random Rab (check out his SoundCloud). Our good friends at Mr. Bugsly Presents and The Brain Trust are presenting the Emancipator extravaganzas in New York and Boston, respectively. TONIGHT, February 1st, Emancipator will fill Irving Plaza with comforting beats that will warm your soul regardless of the weather. On Saturday, he will bring his intoxicating melodies to Paradise Rock Club in Boston. Lost in Sound will be representing at both shows, so come say what up and don’t forget to Use Your Head!