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Dean Blunt Black Metal Rough Trade

To use a crude analogy, if Blunt’s output as Hype Williams was an attempt at sonically replicating the crushingly claustrophobic sensation of serial skunk abuse, the material he’s released under his own name is, largely, akin to the crystalline high of MDMA. Black Metal, like its predecessor The Redeemer, teems with creepily unaffected longing, resulting in a genuinely gorgeous, beguiling and bewitching album.

Black Metal’s first half is British pastoralism at its finest, melancholic Sunday evening music of contemplation, regret and anxiety, songs of devotion delivered in a smoked-out, cracked baritone – paeans to comedowns. This opening sextet – Lush, 50 Cent, Blow, 100, Heavy, Molly & Aquafina – released alone would be the greatest British EP since Belle & Sebastian’s 3…6…9 Seconds of Light. But Blunt being Blunt – one of our most ambitious practioners, a man who seems to want to disorientate and bemuse his audience, a post-postmodern producer – the early warmth and seeming-sincerity is replaced by the now-familiar dischord and disquiet: the Bill Callahan-esque twanging of guitars is ousted by nosediving banks of detuned synth wash and echoplexing drum machine skronk. This is definitve Blunt territory, reworkings of the Hype Williams aesthetic. At the album’s core is the 13-minute Forever: a demanding, lengthy, stuttering jazz workout that plumbs depths of wordless despair. We emerge on the other side into a scorched inner-city, a zone of subliminal dread. Blunt leaves the listener perplexed: how did we get here, why are we being left here, can we escape, do we want to escape? A stunning record.