Friday, May 6, 2016
Listen: DM Stith - "War Machine"
I'll be honest, I primarily know Brooklyn based composer and singer/songwriter DM Stith through his work with other people. Like his frequent appearances on Son Lux's albums over the years. His voice is almost as familiar as Ryan Lott's own despite not being an official member of Son Lux. But "War Machine", the first single from Stith's upcoming album Pigeonheart, has certainly inspired me to go back and deep dive into the man's catalog.
"War Machine" pretty much wastes no time getting started - after several long notes, Stith sets everything in motion with a brisk percussive entrance that builds brick by brick, loop by loop. And yet despite the swiftness of its forward press, there's certain enough room for everything to breath and settle and Stith's vocals are delivered with a sort of conversational casualness. "Don't ask questions to which you know the answers/Am I in trouble? Am I in trouble?" Stith begins and that sort of beguiling command breaking to acquiescence sets up the dichotomy Stith plays with for much of the track. Stith reveals little, sure you know more than he does as he asks question after question and then seemingly answers them. Stith also shifts guilt to and fro with every verse. What little he reveals about the other's transgressions he absolves them. "War Machine" is an interesting blend of electronic and acoustic - synths paired with piano, percussion samples and pizzicato strings, and that ability to seamless it's various moving parts takes place on a narrative level as well as Stith rises to indignation and stoic calm and shifts perspectives and through thoughts effortless. And yet for as little as Stith reveals, he leaves enough clues for you to piece it together like a repeated Russian phrase at a rare moment of slowing down. Without the mystery and universal applicable nature of the narrative (a trait Stith shares with Son Lux), "War Machine" is a track that improves with each subsequent listen. An impressive feat considering it's already a pretty excellent piece of music even on first listen. On "War Machine", Stith is simultaneously compositionally dense and sparse; there's a multitude of layers but they're arranged with an easy listenable neatness. Stith is verbose and brief; revealing only what he wants you to know occasionally in a hurried flurry of words.
"War Machine" is many things but most importantly it is a wonderful introduction to a musician I knew more by name than experience. Considering he's cut from the same eclectic cloth as Gabriel Kahane, My Brighest Diamond's Shara Worden, and Son Lux, Pigeonheart is sure to be a rich, complex album.
DM Stith's third full length Pigeonheart is out July 29th. You can pre-order the album via Bandcamp or iTunes. It'll also be able on vinyl with pre-order info to come later.