Dean Blunt – Skin Fade

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Dean Blunt

Skin Fade

30 January 2014 (Self-Released)

By Patrick DeBonis

        “The white man, I say to you over and over again, the white man I say to you over and over again, the white man I say to you over and over again.”  From the duo Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland’s album Black Is Beautiful, black empowerment has been a distorted underlying tone that exists as more of undeveloped thoughtful idea rather than the actual theme of Blunt’s music.  Up until now, the title and the Ebony magazine logo used for the album cover of the 2012 Hyperdub release have been Blunt’s full extent of making any sort of statement about race.  In his 2013 forced interview with Fact Mag, Blunt tells the interviewer, Chal Raven that he is watching Black Gestapo and that he’s “gotta see a black face on screen at least once a day.”  The 1975 film is one depicting black power, through the creation of an “inner-city People’s Army.” Whether or not Blunt’s music relates directly or indirectly to pro-equality or black power, he seems to hold these beliefs true in his daily life.

“The white man, I say to your over and over again,” is the opening of Blunt’s newest body of work, the mixtape Skin Fade.  This is his first direct look at race in a musical context.  The sample comes from the very beginning of the 1999 episode, “Black Nationalism,” of the Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends series.  The line itself is from the opening scene of a black activist response to Theroux’s question, “what if there was a peaceful solution? What if there was a way to protest and march and stop police brutality peacefully?”  In which he replies, “We’re not going to stand here and speak of some shazam, some hocus pocus, some abracadabra magic.  There is no peaceful way. The white man, I say to you over and over again, is absolutely disagreeable to get along with in peace.”   Not only does the use of this sample directly address racial concerns, but it creates it’s own connotations existing in a new context.  Resentment is the emotion that the vocal line emphasizes.  The sorrow presumably caused by Copeland has evaporated and in its place is just a resentful attitude.  Not that the sample directly alludes to past pains, but it is a decisive tone setter, especially to start the whole mixtape with.

On the topic of break up, Copeland can be credited for helping in the creation of Blunt’s two excellent 2013 releases, The Redeemer and Stone Island.  Not credited in the production sense but in helping cause enough pain to spur Blunt in the right direction musically.  Since those somber releases, Blunt has begun a new chapter in his life and Skin Fade is the first page.  Gone are the remorseful voice mails; but more startling is the almost complete absence of Blunts low rumble.  In the place of both Copeland and Blunts enigmatic singing is Joanne Robertson other worldly and practically inaudible voice.  She is the new centerpiece to Blunt’s music and the “new friend” he sings about.  Blunt’s only vocal appearance on Skin Fade comes at the very end; outlining what is to come.  He details his presumed future with Robertson in the line, “you’re a new friend/ we just begun.”  That future could include a possible new Hype Williams album and further work with Joanne Robertson. (via Tiny Mixtapes)

(Joanne Robertson and Dean Blunt, possible single, not on Skin Fade)

Sonically Blunt got the mop out.  Skin Fade is one of the cleanest and most coherent production jobs Blunt has embarked on.  The low-fi went out the door with The Redeemer, but it is as good as dead by Skin Fade.  A direction is distinctively traversed.  What that direction is, it is impossible to say, but compared to the last Hype Williams project there is a sense of a recognizable destination.  A newfound mastery of his drum machine is explored between the between the array of sounds he uses on this mixtape.  The first track is one of the hardest hitting and starts off with an slightly vapory synthetic beat, setting the tone for the rest of the 26-minutes.

The major tone shift on Skin Fade comes from the use of a cover of the Joni Mitchell song, Woodstock.  The chords ring out hauntingly from the depths of Blunt’s specifically chosen pieces of fellow artists songs.  For an astounding forty seconds the hazy disorienting sounds of synths and drum machine are gone.  All that is left is the resonating of a guitar.  The ending of the fifth song grounds the whole mixtape and creates an eerie perspective between itself and the rest of the tracks.  Coincidentally enough, but almost certainly purposeful, Robertson’s voice drifts like a muddy silhouette of Mitchell’s.  This obvious similarity reiterates a strong conscious decision on Blunt’s part for choosing the building blocks he does.  Just like the very deliberate use of the Rite of Spring on his last two releases.

(The soundcloud has been reposted by a different user)

Everything Dean Blunt touches takes on a life of its own and Skin Fade is no exception.  By using emotion already expressed in the original songs, a deeper dimension of feeling is attained.  The dimension consists of a large number of pathways.  Blunt’s interpretation of the songs he uses, the original artist intentions with their own music, the listeners connotation of the original songs, and the listeners interpretation of Blunt’s music.  All of these conflicting ideas seep together in the final project and amass an unsettling concoction of emotions.  Essentially, every listeners experience with Blunt’s work, and more specifically Skin Fade, is drastically different compared to the normal difference in human perception of music.  Blunt is a pioneer in this technique and thus, every step he takes will be noticed, especially one that is changing the direction of his own life.

Note:

An earlier version of this piece talked about how Skin Fade was released through Blunt’s social media page, which was in fact a fan page.  The other information regarding the murky original release has been removed following the official release of Skin Fade.

Rating: Gotta Have It

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