D.D Dumbo – Utopia Defeated

Album Review by Andrew Gordon | 03 Oct 2016
  • D.D Dumbo - Utopia Defeated
Album title: Utopia Defeated
Artist: D.D Dumbo
Label: 4AD
Release date: 7 Oct

Sometimes true originality takes a while to click. On a first listen, the debut effort from D.D Dumbo, aka Oliver Hugh Perry from Castlemaine, Australia, is an enigma that’s more confounding than it is intriguing. Opening with a spikey, undulating number about a walrus bleeding to death, Perry proceeds to sing about UFOs, Francisco Franco, devil worship and some additional dying sea creatures, all while cycling through an incongruous mixture of cultural styles that seems a little suspect in its freewheeling exoticism.

Moreover, his voice takes some getting used to. Perry sings with neither the cool detachment nor untrained passion that tends to win critical plaudits, instead possessing an earnestness and confidence that one is wont to associate with squeaky-clean pop music. His isn’t the ‘authentic’ voice of the plucky underdog everyone loves to root for but the refined croon of a canny professional – not exactly easily romanticised.

That’s the thing about originals, though. They elude conventional narratives and play havoc with your expectations. Give Utopia Defeated time, and the alien logic that binds this outstanding record begins to unfurl and initial skepticism turns to sheer awe.

It becomes clear that Perry’s interest in culturally specific sounds constitutes far more than musical tourism. Between the tambura drone that bookends Satan, the ethereal shinobue that circle above Cortisol’s menacing bassline and Alihukwe’s African chants, Utopia Defeated sounds like world music in the sense that it reflects a globally minded pop music which doesn’t take Western traditions as a starting point. There’s a bluesiness to his vocals, but Perry’s odd, twisty guitar figures are reminiscent of little else in the modern canon besides Dirty Projectors, another act whose influences span the compass. 

This cosmopolitan outlook feels especially poignant when you realise that Utopia Defeated is largely about global warming, the ‘looming deadline’ which – in theory – threatens all corners of the world equally. In reality, though, systemic inequality leaves many more vulnerable than others; a reality Perry acknowledges with scathing brilliance when he summarises humanity’s current trajectory as a “murder suicide.” On Toxic City he takes a lush trip considering the plight of blameless, nonhuman lifeforms and wondering if, somewhere out there, a being exists which doesn't eat its fellow creatures, ‘watch TV or worship Satan.’ Be glad we've got D.D Dumbo to be that enlightened extra-terrestrial for the rest of us.

Listen to: Satan, Brother