Text by CLOT Magazine
Dalhous, the music project of Marc Dall and Alex Ander formed in Edinburgh, are bringing our next mixtape instalment, with a mix that will particularly please those with cinematographic inclinations.
Dalhous have just returned after a 5-year hiatus with a long-awaited follow up to 2016’s House Number 44, presenting the second volume of The Composite Moods Collection: Point Blank Range released on Denovali Records earlier this year.
After their former record label, the renowned electronic underground Blackest Ever Black disbanded, Dalhous found themselves out on a limb. It took 5 years to find a new home with Denovali. Given the unusually extended period between records, Dalhous had the time to dive deeper into the material, rendering a level of experimentation previously unavailable to them. Over 4 hours of material was created, a total of 1TB of data. Countless revisions to the tracklisting ensued with some of the unused material being reutilised in the making of the final chapter in the trilogy to form a direct companion piece.
Point Blank Range reinterprets the established narrative with an inverse look at the proceedings. Taking the “point of view of the disease”, the perspective is now turned inside out, revealing an alternate account from the eyes of the photographed subject of House Number 44. If Vol.1 was a documented presentation of another person’s condition, Vol.2 takes the listener behind the facade.
The entire record can be listened to as a continuous piece, each track seamlessly linked together as though part of an interconnecting nervous system. Where House Number 44 offered airy, widescreen soundscapes of detached detail, Point Blank Range presents an altogether different form.
Listeners will be able to decipher nods to long-standing soundtrack influences from composers such as Fabio Frizzi, with his use of strikingly bold and haunting melodies, to Tangerine Dream’s distinctively foggy atmospheres of The Keep. Some moments evoke the nihilistic drones of Brian Gascoigne’s soundtrack to Phase IV and the more horrific passages of metal clanging ambience from Chu Ishikawa with his scores for Shinya Tsukamoto.
This mixtape is a collection of some of the records Dalhous have been re-listening to recently. They like to make mixes in the same way they make records where entire tracks are used as raw material. The cinematographic influence comes across immediately: There are a lot of cues from film and game soundtracks, from classic FPS games like Wolfenstein 3D and Half-Life through to a library cue from David Cronenberg’s Shivers, to direct audio rip from the opening of Abell Ferrera’s The King of New York by Joe Delia.
You recently released a new album, The Composite Moods Collection Vol.2: Point Blank Range. The new album, conceptually, is an evolution of Vol.1, which was a documented presentation of another person’s condition/disease; Vol. 2 wants to take the listened-to point of view of the disease”. could you tell us a bit about the intellectual process behind its inception?
I’ve never explicitly stated it outright, but the germ of the idea was the concept of emotional transference within a household, in this case, between two siblings. It was interesting to try and explore this musically, drawing on the fact that these protagonists are fused on a cellular level and psychologically. I referenced various films from the likes of Repulsion (1965), Persona (1966), Images (1972) and Clean, Shaven (1993) for their narratively front and centre focus on mental illness.
And what have you technically been exploring with it? what were the challenges during its production?
The main challenge was to keep it focused within the parameters of the original concept. Working by yourself, it can be hard to pull yourself back from going completely off the rails when an idea crops up that you hadn’t planned for. I can end up being sidetracked and spend weeks on ideas that I know are unfit for the project at hand, but I’m still compelled to see them through.
I’m always thinking about future projects, so I keep dated folders of unused demos that I pull out randomly and try using further down the line. This random element plays a big part in how I create tracks. Attaching two unrelated tracks together can be really inspiring, as it can offer up surprisingly strange juxtapositions that you could never create otherwise. It’s like having another member in the band.
For Vol.2 and 3, I wanted the music to be representative of the woman’s neurotransmitters. It was an exercise that involved the most amount of processing I have ever done on a record, which in part, I sadly have the breakdown of Blackest Ever Black to thank as I was given much longer than I originally intended to go deeper into the material. I have, in some cases, 15 different versions of the same track and hundreds of sounds were created within those tracks. They ended up becoming what I’d consider maximalist records.
The track titles and as well compositions have a sense of cinematographic narrative; it could almost soundtrack a film noir. Is cinema or that kind of narrative something that inspires your practice? In what way if so?
I’m glad that comes through. I’ve always envisioned it as being in the architecture of a film noir, although if made into a film, it would have taken someone like Andrzej Zulawskito really convey the type of approach I would like. For me, cinema has always been the most important influence. This trilogy has been presented as though it were a film on home physical media. Each track on the three records has been presented like a chapter selection heading in the menu of a Blu-Ray disc.
The records were broken up into individual named tracks to straighten the sense of narrative. Ideally, the records should be listened to in one go as they were created as one long continuous piece. I’d imagine it would be jarring and, for the most part, incomprehensible to skip through the records looking for immediate standalone tracks. In that way, they largely differ from some of the earlier Dalhous LPs, which I feel contain tracks that work on their own merits.
The production of the album came after a 5-year hiatus, after the disbanding of Blackest Ever Black; considering the quick pace or turnaround projects have these days, how has your experience been allowing you an expanded period of time?
I initially wanted to release Point Blank Range back in 2017. I wasn’t previously told BEB was ending, so it came as a surprise and left me in the lurch, leaving me with a lot of time on my hands while I tried to find a label to continue the trilogy. It turned out no one was really interested and it ended up taking a few years of waiting until Denovali got in touch. There was a period of time when I started to think that the records might not get released at all.
The last few years have been some of my most productive. I finished Vol.3 in the trilogy and produced lots of new Dalhous music outside The Composite Moods Collection, which may become three 30-minute E.Ps in the future.
What is your relationship with technology nowadays? What use do you make of it for your compositions? and how do you cope with screen/digital overload?
The music I’ve made has always been reliant on technology. However, I try and stay a few steps back to avoid getting caught up in the latest trends in DWA and VST software, which I feel can have a homogenous quality within genres of music.
I am not the healthiest regarding a work/life balance. It can be a problem as I edit all the music on a screen. I am obsessed with precise automation, a lot of which I suspect no one would ever hear but it resolves some of my incessant anxiety over visual details and balance. There’s a lesson to be learnt from trusting your ears more.