Published on April 4th, 2012 | by Chip Copeland0
Review: Dane Penn – Ghosts of Departure EP
The Late Late Review
EP’s are one of the hardest things (for me anways) to review for a couple reasons. Most of the time it simply has to do with the lack of time available for the artist to be able to draw you into their sound. Sure, a single release can be more difficult to hook someone but there’s a 50% chance of success versus failure. An EP on the other hand can be a mixed bag. To steal an album title from another artist to explain this; you could have two hits and a miss.
Released a month ago, Rockford native Dane Penn’s debut Ghosts of Departure EP is slow to start with the opener Come Undone (not to be confused with Duran Duran’s Come Undone). A plaintively strum guitar is joined along the way by some drums with no real tonal distinction (I think there are 3, maybe 4). The drum sounds pulled on this record are very flat sounding and generally lack a sound associated with a traditional kit. That’s fine, I think it works stylistically and is very reminiscent to me of Prairie Prince’s understated drumming on XTC’s fantastic late 90′s album Apple Venus Vol. 1. The raw quality adds an overall empty and barren feel to the entire EP, allowing the other instrumentation to really take up sonic space. Eventually the instrumentation builds into a crescendo towards the end of the song, but for my taste, didn’t happen soon enough to really hold my interest throughout the tune. On the whole, and as an opening song to the EP, I really feel that it fails to give me the best of what Penn has to offer right from the get go. Not that an opener should be upbeat, I just don’t think it should be 6+ minutes long. Then again, conventions have been broken plenty of times when it comes to songcraft.
The second track Shaking might have been a better choice to bring listeners into Dane’s world, if that was the intention. There is a hook there to attract listeners and is a bit more upbeat; I found myself humming the verse the other morning while making breakfast. When a song gets stuck in your head you know there’s something there that is infectious; luckily this was the good kind.
It’s a slow burn throughout most of the album and never really stretches beyond the slower output that some might be accustomed to in the singer songwriter, folkie genre. The lyrical content generally focusses on longing, having, losing, loving, isolation… you know, the usual stuff that gets written about in thoughtful and hushed mid-tempo jams with acoustic guitars. Penn vocal approach is very reminiscent of David Bazan, not the angry and rocking Bazan, but more the early Pedro the Lion output. The waver in his voice lends a sincerity to what he sings while tipping you off to the fact that
Firing Range is the perfect track to place before the closer. Understated and expressive, it does what it should by being the calm before the storm that is the final track Lady of the Dale, possibly the strongest song in the bunch.
While not a perfect debut, Dane Penn lays the groundwork for some promising music in the future. Like I said before, the EP is a slow burner that doesn’t blow up but is instead a nice little campfire out in the woods.
You can purchase the album online either at the Cassette Company Records website or at Penn’s Bandcamp page.
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