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Albums of 2012 – 25. Daughn Gibson – ‘All Hell’

When he dropped his debut in April of this year, Daughn Gibson proved much more than an interesting ‘truck driver turned country crooner’ backstory. Just as James Blake took R&B and gave it a post-Burial remodel, so Gibson fuses old Americana with an electronic appendage, giving a largely traditional genre a much-needed contemporary context. The world of All Hell is much more atmospheric though – opener Bad Guys places us in a battered saloon, with Gibson’s dark, rugged figure slouched on a wooden chair over in the corner, weaving tales between rounds of whiskey.

Gibson keeps his palette spare and gets in and out before the clock even hits the 31-minute mark. It’s testament to his ability, then, that under such conditions he covers so much ground. He does well to tailor his husky baritone voice to the familiar melodies of American Country – a perfect fit to the vague yet emotive stories that inhibit All Hell‘s 10 tracks. His choice of instrumentation always acts as a foil to this, whether through the piano loop and shuffling beat of In the Beginning, the haunting spoken-word sample that introduces the title track, or the mournful strings on highlight Ray, an ode to your local neighbourhood fuck-up, who “looked like a movie star, but grew up to be totally worthless.” Such subtle cleverness is often what drives All Hell forward, making Gibson an unlikely but all the more attractive pop-noir talent.

More niche experiments such as Gibson’s are often overlooked – on paper it’s a surefire failure. However, All Hell surprisingly finds its place in the common ground between the humble storytelling of the country road and the understated nuances of minimalist electronica; the ghost of time-worn tales and the ghost in the machine.

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