- Dalhous make some of the brightest music you'll hear on Blackest Ever Black, but it occupies an uncertain footing between hope and pessimism. The upbeat timbres of their first album, An Ambassador For Laing, felt artificial—the musical equivalent of masking depression with chemical substances. Now the Scottish duo (Marc Dall on songwriting, Alex Ander on the engineering), who share an interest in mental health, sink deeper into melancholy with their second full-length, Will To Be Well. Turning the dreary march of clinical depression into something almost psychedelic, the LP flits from elegant and percussive tracks to abstract ambience over the course of one very eerie hour.
Will To Be Well packs a lot of ideas into its abstract soundscapes. There's something pastoral about its aimless drift, but that wide-open quality could just as easily be a source of anxiety. Every moment of beauty is underpinned by a thread of something meaner, the threat that you could be plunged into darkness. The comforting basslines of "A Communion With These People" feel like they're beckoning you down a rabbit hole, while "Her Mind Was A Blank" chops its melody into foreboding stutters. The trilling organ runs on "Someone Secure" are regal but just slightly off, as if played in a panic. "Abyssal Plane," one of the album's highlights, is just straight-up unnerving—you can't shake the nagging feeling that something is about to go terribly wrong.
Sleepwalking through ambient interludes and more substantial songs, the record has the groggy feel of waking up in a medicinal haze. The band's processing and resampling methods have a way of making all the edges blurry and the shapes hard to make out. Even when some elements feel familiar, listen closer and the facade falls away: Dalhous rarely end up with anything that sounds like a real instrument.
One of Will To Be Well's big moments is "Transference," a drum-driven track with warbly piano and trebly chimes: simple but effective, the unwavering polish is its own kind of spooky. The effect recalls Nine Inch Nails' flirtations with ambient music, where nihilistic tendencies were tempered by pretty sounds and melodies. It's a powerful formula, and Dall and Ander have basically perfected it here.
01. First Page From Justine
02. A Communion With These People
03. Function Curve
04. Sensitised To This Area
05. Lovers Of The Highlands
06. Four Daughters By Four Women
07. Her Mind Was A Blank
09. To Be Universal You Must Be Specific
10. Someone Secure
11. Entertain The Idea
12. Abyssal Plane
13. Thoughts Out Of Season
15. Masquerading As Love