A quiet city of just over 20,000, Palestrina is nestled deep in the mountains of Lazio, southeast of Rome. The pastoral landscapes were familiar to David August: his mother was born there and they always returned to see family. The serene climate and surroundings were a strong contrast with the gritty sprawl of his hometown Hamburg, where he still spoke Italian in the house and lived in a household open-minded and aware of Italian traditions.
As a producer and composer, David's polymorphous sound comes from a place of deep introspection and self-discovery. The classically trained Tonmeister graduate’s sound is difficult to pigeonhole, and attempting to connect the dots between his early dance singles through to his debut album Times in 2013, and his 2016 collaboration with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester can seem like an exercise in futility, such is his depth of knowledge. The culture he grew up in, however, was not reflected in his music. He admits that while his strongest emotions had its roots in his roots, he never used those emotions creatively, keeping them private until now.
Following the start of his own label earlier this year, '99CHANTS' – and his ambient debut album for it, 'DCXXXIX A.C.', David's newest album 'D’Angelo' - released on [PIAS] Recordings - is the sound of a young artist getting in touch with those roots, exploring new landscapes and freeing inhibitions; deconstructing pop atmospheres while in search of his past, and reforming them into something deeply moving. Drawing inspiration from the life and works of the baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, the album fuses laidback pop sensibility with moody cinematographic soundscapes. David paints a vivid portrait of his past, applying his technical training to something utterly raw and primal. The results, like his career in microcosm, cannot be pigeonholed into a specific genre. There are elements of Balearic pop, noir jazz, post-rock, and the raw genre scramblings of fellow traveller Forest Swords, wound up into something excruciatingly personal.
The title track - the lead single for the album - brings to mind the steady chug of Meanderthals or Moon Duo at first; something you might hear on Beats In Space or (a Southern echo of) Smalltown Supersound. A full and rich composition, driving and head- nod-inducing at first, with chiming guitars, rhythmic bass, and filtered vocals – direct and earnest – all playing off each other until it transforms into a thunderous ambient soundscape. Voices decay into reverb, words become glossolalia, muttering, breathing, whimpering. The sudden tension broken by an electric piano groove coming in, and the drums briefly returning to the front before fading again into crackle, with everything seamlessly merging into an unsettling drone like something out of Forbidden Planet, leading into an unknown landscape stretching out around the listener.It was important to David that the recording sessions had to happen on Italian soil, that he draw inspiration from the very place it came from. Sequestering himself in the studio for a fortnight, David toiled to find a unique language to express himself, with Caravaggio's paintings in one monitor, and Ableton in the other. This admitted obsession with originality was originally fruitless, producing only one track in the original sessions, and it wasn't until then he realised that trying to create a completely new language, ex nihilo, is a product of pure selfishness. That realisation was always there, always relevant, throughout his evolution as an artist. He had to think about the process as little as possible and let himself go, embracing spiritual energies and overcoming his skepticism of that world – if only for a short time. The results are impassioned, melancholic, existing in a space that is not easy to translate into words...but do the words always matter?
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