Reviews

Daniel Blumberg
On&On

(Mute)

8/10

Round and round Daniel Blumberg goes in the self-directed video for ‘On&On’. One can only imagine the logistics of the scene; a camera and tripod propped at the curb of a town centre roundabout capturing cars, dog walkers and Blumberg himself endlessly circling atop a motorcycle. Time moves on in a series of interchangeable snapshots, a never-ending rotation of humdrum banality. Underlaid by Blumberg’s new record’s unsettled lead single – which is reprised in this collection a whole four times – it feels a recipe for insanity.

Much of the sentiment of this visual is applicable to Blumberg’s second album On&On, the follow-up to his 2018 debut Minus. Ever-ambitious, on this new work the former Yuck and Hebronix man challenges the sweet spot of what can be considered palatable when your instinct is to experiment twice over. The method of the record’s execution is as important as the idea itself, with Blumberg’s core band embracing free-playing live sessions as an exercise of trust and technique, testing the limbs of their instruments and seeing how far they can bend them before they succumb and break. This produces moments of grotesque metamorphosis, uncomfortable to behold but altogether reconciled by Blumberg’s own sympathy-inducing croon.

The absence of the piano – so central to much of Blumberg’s previous songwriting – is a striking choice that emphasises the raw, jazz-inflected compulsion of the instruments that did make the cut. It’s not mourned in the slightest – indeed, it’s hard to imagine tracks as prickly as ‘Sidestep Summer’ and ‘Silence Breaker’ capturing the turmoil of their lyrics were they wetted by emotive keys. Meanwhile, the tale of ‘Teethgritter’ summons a warmer respite, Blumberg remarking on a relationship’s toxic dynamic like a knowing, thirsty addict; On&On documents an itchy and uncomfortable love, but one that’s overcome by the relief that comes when scratching it, over and over and on and on…

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