Churches make for odd gig venues. They're always atmospheric and interesting, not to mention acoustically superior to most buildings but they create a sense of reverence amongst an audience that, when paired with the wrong artist can detract a little from the show. Luckily for me and the other 60 or so people at D.D. Dumbo's show at the haunting, cracked and wonderful St Pancras Old Church in King's Cross, that wasn't the case here.
Having first heard of D.D Dumbo via NPR's brilliant field recording's series, I was intrigued to hear more of his rhythmic, guitar driven music and to see for myself just how his approach to live performance works.
Judging by his sparse between-song-chatter D.D Dumbo (Oliver Perry off stage) is a fairly unassuming guy. Soft spoken, polite and funny. The songs themselves though are complex, clever, and driven by almost irresistible grooves and rhythms. A lone figure on stage, Perry creates these layered and vibrant tunes from scratch using 2 drums, a modified Danelectro 12 string guitar, a loop pedal and a microphone.
There's a percussive nature to D.D Dumbo's music created not just by the drums but also his loops of percussive clunks, clicks and chimes from his guitar. But whilst the groove of the beat clearly pushes these songs forward, what really shines through is Perry's guitar playing. There's a strong blues feel to some of it and throughout the show I heard licks that could have just as easily come from an album of African guitar music. There's shades of Tureg, desert rock band Tinariwen in his playing. Probably not the most common influence for a guy from Melbourne, Australia. His set's opener, “Walrus” is a perfect example of his style, almost a showcase song for all the elements that make him stand out.
The use of loop pedals in a solo performance isn't a new thing but it's rare to see it done so well. Perry has not only mastered the use of the technology, he's mastered his instrument as well. His use of effects is a genuine enhancement to the music and not there to cover any potential mistakes. On top of this his songwriting is original and clever with melodies that go off on tangents but never veer too far from being catchy and memorable. On paper this may sound like there is too much going on at once for it to make any sense but there is a real clarity to D.D Dumbo's sound that keeps these songs from coming across as convoluted.
The set was relatively short, seeing as his repertoire is limited by how new his career is (his only release to date is the 4 song Tropical Oceans EP on 4AD). I must admit though, whilst I can't wait for his debut album to arrive, there is a part of me that's worried. Would the studio recordings stand up to the intensity and skill of the live show? The Tropical Oceans EP would seem to suggest that it's possible but even so D.D Dumbo has set the bar fairly high for himself.