REVIEW: Blue Daisy – The Sunday Gift

Young Camden native Kwesi Darko – aka Blue Daisy – has been teasing us over the last couple of years with scraps of intriguing and imaginative production, from the Flying Lotus jerk of Wolf to the floating Space Ex featuring LaNote, all hinting at what a full Blue Daisy album might sound like. Well now Blue Daisy, and the Black Acre label, have provided the answer with the recent release of his debut album The Sunday Gift.

The album is indeed a gift, though more from the dark, small hours of the ‘morning Sunday’ than the ‘crap TV and dread for the working week ahead Sunday’: this is deep listening. Darko’s attraction to space in his productions comes to the fore, and the guest vocalists along for the ride are careful not to infringe upon it. The album is tied together with an almost filmic quality – like the soundtrack to a lost David Lynch creation – prevalent right from the opening track Distance (Once Upon A Time), a spacious introduction and one that fits with Darko’s enigmatic image built in the SBTRKT mould with his masked appearance at live shows.

Tracklisting:

01. Distance (Once Upon A Time)
02. Firewall feat. Anneka
03. Fallin’ (Prelude)
04. Fallin’ feat. Heidi Vogel
05. Descend
06. Shadow Assassins
07. Psyche Inquiry feat. Hey!Zeus
08. Raindance
09. Interlude
10. Only For You feat. Stac
11. Spinning Channels feat. Anneka
12. The End

Go-to guest vocalist Anneka’s contribution to Firewall is reminiscent of Kiki Hitomi’s breathy style in work with King Midas Sound offshoot Black Chow: far more ethereal and disconnected than her appearances on recent Starkey or FaltyDL tracks. One of the album’s other femme fatale vocal features, from The Cinematic Orchestra’s Heidi Vogel, is marginally less inventive, as she provides Fallin’ with a few uninspired wails that Darko manages to use creatively as textual layers. There are obvious Burial comparisons to be made here in the ghostly vocals and distant production, but they would seem reductive to both artists, as Darko uses the voice as a compositional tool as opposed to a wholly conceptual element.

It quickly becomes obvious as the album progresses that beats aren’t the be all and end all here, more that they’re used to generate momentum for the more ambient compositions (such as Firewall and Fallin’), or to nail crunching bass lines to the floor (see Descend). This is not club music: this is something for far later in the night.

The Sunday Gift’s spook is underlined on Shadow Assassins – definitely one of the more apt song titles – as unnerving voice snippets rise and fall out of the mist of synth drones. Psyche Inquiry (featuring Hey!Zeus) is Shadow Assassins’ natural companion, providing some welcome variation as the London rapper gives some insight into the inner workings of his mind over a brooding beat straight out of Trickys mid-’90s cannon. The track’s demented vamp out continues to build terror long after Hey!Zeus has left the vocal booth.

Raindance rumbles into existence with distorted digital drums and a sweeping loop that gives the impression of a radio being tuned in an abandoned warehouse (which, given Darko’s apparently inscrutable attention to detail, it probably is), before a menacing beat drops and the whole track dives full on into a black hole of eerie distant vocal samples and reverb-laden percussion.

Blue Daisy – Raindance by Black Acre Records

The mesmerising Spinning Channels begins all air and dream-like chords; Anneka’s cascading harmonies lulling the listener into a state of repose as a four-to-the-floor kick drum rhythm slowly creeps into the mix. It is a stunning production, as synth-layers are introduced and melt away throughout, and a melodic bass line ties them all together. If there were any that still doubted Darko’s skills as a master craftsman, Spinning Channels puts them all in their place over the course of seven and a half faultlessly arranged minutes.

The Sunday Gift really is a work of impressive maturity, and those previously frustrated with the lack of a Blue Daisy full length album will now understand why they were made to wait so long.