Vinyl Vlog 480

Vinyl Vlog 480

Wednesday, 10 February 2021
”Copenhagen One” from Europa by Dave Depper.

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into Dave Depper’s Europa LP. It might sound a little unusual, but sometimes an explanation is required when an artist ventures so far from their established normal creative output – if only so fans don’t get outraged because they’ve purchased something that they did not expect in any way. It doesn’t take much – explanations can often be made in a space roughly the size of a hype sticker – and then the potential problem is assumed to have been solved; the artist did their due diligence and (theoretically) potential listeners entered the space that the album occupies educated on what they can expect in the potential listening experience of the album in question.

It doesn’t take much explanation to educate listeners, normally, so that the explanation of what listeners can expect from Death Cab For Cutie guitarist Dave Depper’s Europa LP takes about six paragraphs is a statement which definitely puts the ‘eek’ in “unique.” That explanation appears on the back cover of the album and, in the interest of relative brevity, I’ve included an abbreviated version of that passage, here. It reads:

“[For three weeks while on tour across the European Union in 2015 –ed] I would dutifully set my equipment up each day and record whatever came to mind for 30 to 60 minutes. By the time I returned home to Oregon, I’d amassed over ten hours of material – much of it aimless, but some of it quite compelling. With the aid of the kind ears of some close friends, I whittled it down to the length of a record and that’s how Europa came to be.”

Got all that reader? Okay – here’s what to expect:

The gradual, almost methodical fade-in which opens “Copenhagen One” (and the A-side of the album, by extension) is almost a perfect hook in itself. There, listeners will find that they’re beginning to ache with expectation as a regal and orchestral build takes almost a minute and a half before it has fully materialized, but it still takes almost another two minutes more for the track to develop a bit of movement. In this, listeners are forced to realize that nothing about this release is really pop-informed or pop structured – it is one hundred percent about the vibe which radiates from the sound. After the four-minute introduction presented by “Copenhagen One,” the sound shifts both space and location to arrive in “Manchester Two” which immediately illustrates more form (Depper’s guitar becomes more tangibly referential to the textural play that Yeah Yeah Yeahs put into “Maps”) and more closely resembles something that it could be assumed is a demo in that while it exhibits structure, it is simply unfinished because it lacks a lyric sheet. “Manchester Two” exemplifies the idea of a song – and it’s a very good one.

After “Manchester Two,” the A-side of Europa back-pedals a little into the less textural and more obviously serene moves of “Manchester One,” but then leaps to “Vienna Five” to reach a compromise between the ideas which have already been sketched out, and present a resolution which closes the side. In “Vienna Five,” the textural sounds which characterized both “Copenhagen One” and “Manchester One” converges with the movement implied by “Manchester Two” to give listeners the pay-off they’ve been looking for (whether they knew it or not) since the needle dropped on the album. There is a fully-formed structure about “Vienna Five” which feels like a full presentation – like a great instrumental track by an instrumental titan like The Dirty Three or Mike Patton or Andrew W.K. – but streamlined smoother than the material presented by any of those artists. “Vienna Five” plays so smoothly that it will have listeners waiting to time the end of the cut with when they lift the needle from the LP, so that the transition feels as natural as the music does.

Those who feel as though they have timed the movement right between sides will find themselves rewarded by the bright and hopeful impression that “Brussels One” inspires, as it opens the B-side. There, flecks of hope ring through the arpeggiated chords which reoccur through the song’s four-minute running, and contrast perfect;y against the metallic sound of “Copenhagen Five,” which follows it. The closest on the album to an outright investigation of New Age, “Copenhagen Five” attempts to both soothe listeners in addition to implying a dystopian clang.

“Munich Six” seeks to completely augment the vibe that all of the cuts on Europa had builtin the album’s running to that point by adding textures similar to the ones which have come from Kraftwerk, over the years (it’s pretty interesting to point out that, somehow, this instrumental performance actually sounds German, in origin) before jumping to “Berlin One” and somehow actually feeling like a dispossessed fragment left behind by Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy,” before finally coming to a rest with another serene movement in the form of “Munich Seven.” There, again, Depper soothes nerves with gentle arpeggios which trail off wistfully out of this world with the help of digital delay effects and carefully measured composition. Easily the longest performance on Europa at five and a half minutes, “Munich Seven” presents like a fantastic, low key epic, and ends the album on a perfect note; while not bombastic, “Munich Seven” feels as though it’s ending on a classically trained thematic peak; listeners will recognize and be able to share a sense of satisfaction as “Munich Seven” winds to a close.

…And so, in the end when the needle lifts, those who have run front-to-back with the album will find to their surprise that this instrumental album made by an alt-rock guitarist actually had them captivated – feeling the movements of the music and actively attempting to travel with them. That is incredible – no matter how one looks at it. True, Dave Depper is not the first guitarist to pull something like this off – the obvious comparison to make would be to Frank Zappa – but he is definitely the first in a very long time. Not only that but Europa is the first album of its type to come from Dave Depper; that realization commands respect – and those who hear Europa will find themselves hoping that this album will not just be a one-off, and the guitarist will conduct more investigations like it, in the future. [Bill Adams]


Europa is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

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