In the opening exposition of Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 magnum opus, Magnolia, a deep sea diver is discovered charred at the top a tree following a forest fire in the summer of 1983. A real-life mythologised figure of great fascination that was given an absurdist backstory by Anderson and used as a dark parable for recklessness and unfortunate circumstance. This scuba diver just so happens to lend his name to the exciting new North-London based, experimental-electronic/ IDM project Delmer Darion. The pair of Tom Lenton and Oliver Jack who like Anderson have a penchant for intrigue and emotional complexity.
Their debut record, ‘Morning Pageants’, has been a labour of love some five years in the making. An aural tapestry over ten tracks that accounts the decline of the cultural importance of the figure of ‘Satan’ and exploration as to how this has evolved over time – inspired by a line in the Wallace Stevens poem ‘Esthétique du Mal’.
Given the dense conceptual nature of the album’s premise – it may come as no surprise that musically, this is a deep and layered record. A collage of ideas which sees fragments of shoegaze spliced with IDM to conjure a vast sonic landscape, decorated with intricate technical embellishments of self-sampling and tape degradation. Such varying ideas often co-exist in the same track – as the industrial murmur at the start of single ‘Narrowing’ falls away into a bopping disco beat, whilst ‘Lacuna’ sees a pulsating drone of thundering dread build to breaking point before drifting into the ether to reveal a ruminative folk core. Much like the Satanic figure at is thematic nucleus, ‘Morning Pageants’ takes many guises and is constantly evolving.
One of the record’s great successes is how it manages to capture the sweetspot of introspective wonder, without ever settling for droning ambiance – capable of flicking the switch and mixing the dynamics. The duo operate best when in this headspace and you can feel yourself following them on their musical odyssey – rummaging through tape recordings in the dark.
This is best exemplified on standout track ‘Darkening’ where you can audibly hear the click of a tape moments before the introduction of thrashy 90s guitars. Or perhaps when the beguiling, towering synths of ‘Wilding’ are plunged into a demented cacophonous breakdown, before being quickly evaporated by a sharp burst of pulsating synthesiser. A moment that also best encapsulates the lurking dread that clings to the record, hiding in the half-moments always threatening to break out. In many instances, often fended off by a cast of ethereal guest vocalists that give ‘Morning Pageants’ its moments of luminescence in this hypnotic tug-of-war between the light and darkness.
A beautifully crafted, nuanced record, bursting to the brim with ideas and not afraid to test the listener with its expansive sound pallet – ‘Morning Pageants’ represents one of the most transfixing listens you’ll have all year – an audacious, technical triumph, made all the more impressive coming from such a new band.
Whilst Wallace Stevens declared that, “The death of Satan was a tragedy for the imagination” – ‘Morning Pageants’ is a testament to the fact that the imagination indeed still lives on.
Words: Rory Marcham
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