DANIEL THOMAS FREEMAN
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review

The Milk Factory



5/5

Daniel Thomas Freeman is one third of experimental ambient folk outfit Rameses III, which have been operating since the early 2000s. The trio, hailing from London, have published a number of releases on Firefly, Digitalis, Important Records or Type, and played alongside such ambient acts as Stars Of The Lid, Murcof or Rothko. He now steps up for his first solo record, The Beauty Of Doubting Yourself, a very personal document of his battle with depression and subsequent recovery.

Recorded over a six year period, during which Freeman found himself in the grip of serious depression, the album is split into three distinct sections, the first focusing on the lowest darkest points in his life, the second documenting his journey back from the abyss, while the third sees him returning to a more peaceful and stable state of mind. Expectedly, the first two tracks, Dark House Walk and Staring Into Black Water, are dense and sticky sonic compositions built from treated field recordings and stark electronic textures, which are developed into bleak drones and soundscapes. On the former, Freeman uses a recording of Westminster Cathedral bells captured from one of the building's surrounding streets, but these are so intensely processed that they become simple components in the densely layered sonic magma which constitutes the backdrop of the piece. The latter, clocking at just over twenty five minutes, is an even bleaker piece based around a slow evolutive drone upon which are placed various noises, textures and, in the second half, distant ethereal vocal components which all adds to the oppressing characteristic of the piece.

With the title track, Freeman breaks into very different grounds. Some of the earlier oppressive atmospherics are still occasionally present here, but the tone changes drastically from the onset. A curtain of tiny percussive particles is placed at the forefront, behind which a gentle muffled melody comes in and out of focus, revealing a much lighter touch. This shift in the mood is further developed on The Might Of Angels. While once again centred around a dense drone, the piece appears to be slowly pulled up to the surface as layers of violin loops become more potent and the drone eventually disintegrate, but it feels as if things deteriorate again on The Devil Would Steal Your Joy as a cluster of slightly distorted pulsating electronics and processed vocals takes shape, but, cutting right through, the rich tones of a dulcimer offer a glimmer of hope.

With the last two pieces, Freeman reaches yet another stage in his deeply introspective journey. Dedicated to his late mother, Elegy And Rapture (For Margaret) sees him layer violin loops again, but here, fragments of melody continuously take shape and vanish as loops appear to go in and out of sync, until a distorted drone signals the end of the piece. The album concludes with Staring Into The Light, a response to the opening piece and a testament of Freeman's journey. The mood is here much more serene, with Freeman bringing in soft vocal textures and delicate keyboard touches to the fore, letting them hang delicately over a wonderfully smooth, warm and rounded drone structure.

Despite its dark origins and extremely personal nature, The Beauty Of Doubting Yourself is a truly inspiring, and inspired, record, which manages to keep its audience totally captivated and, crucially, completely part of the experience. Daniel Thomas Freeman achieves an incredibly fine balance between pathos and hope, gloom and light, and is careful never to let any of these take predominance over the others. With his debut solo record, Freeman has, quite simply, delivered one of the very best records this year is likely to produce.

themilkman
Monday 19 September 2011

recording

"The Beauty Of Doubting Yourself" cover

Album released Thursday 23 June 2011 on CD and digital by the Home Normal label.


mp3 - "Elegy And Rapture (For Margaret)"



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