The high-gloss packaging and artwork would tend to indicate that D2R
came from a top production company. But in fact D2R
is the second self-produced album from percussionist/keyboardist Hal Darling. Mr. Darling’s liner notes are actually as entertaining as his music. If his words are to be believed, he is an overly dedicated musician and composer who just happens to be a self-deprecating narcissistic drunk as well. That combination can work for the rare individual and so it seems to do the trick for Darling. His prose and music suggest that the Nebraskan is the kind of guy who could be inhabiting one of the government's abandoned missile silos, toiling away on his keyboards and computers for hour after hour, day after day, year after year as a 21st century Phantom of the Opera.
D2R is a synthesized orchestral mixture of doom and gloom, augmented by occasional Zappa-esque humor and the driving force of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. (Dare I say there are even hints of Grand Funk Railroad from its “Flight of the Phoenix” days?) It is not jazz in any way but certainly has been influenced by jazz-rock fusion. There are few discernable solos, as Darling would rather focus on the dynamics of the music rather than the individual voices. With his keyboards and studio he is able to create a full synthetic orchestra. But Darling is smart enough to portray the music in that light and does not try to pretend the music is something it is not.
“Clown on Fire” opens the album and is its best piece. Despite its clearly subversive nature, it is rollicking good fun. One can actually visualize a video-game clown with his hair on fire desperately trying to find water to put it out. His life is in your hands. “Prom Vomit” will take you back to your high school days and “Asunder” will put you out of your misery.
Darling is joined by Uri Gatton on guitar and Athan Gallis on woodwinds. Their contributions seem important, but for the most part it is difficult to distinguish them apart from the synthesis that surrounds them. Perhaps the next time out Darling will wander off the range a bit and allow for some more personal expression. Could it be that doing so would betray his vision? We’ll only know if we find a way to remove his mask.
Personnel: Hal Darling- Percussion and keyboards; Uri Gatton- all guitars; Athan Gallis- woodwinds, brass, MIDI horns