Dawn Chorus #12: Deerful – Tell Me I Can Fix This On My Own

Dawn Chorus #12: Deerful – Tell Me I Can Fix This On My Own

There’s a lot of thinking being done (by me) at the moment about digital and analogue impacts on music, as a listener and (less so) as a musician. This thinking surfaced the need to hear again the Tell Me I Can Fix This On My Own album from Deerful, so here we are with a dreampop algorave to set us off on waves of bliss this Thursday. 

Dawn Chorus header - a recommended album every week day

Deerful Tell me I Can Fix This On My Own album artworkArtist: Deerful
Album: Tell Me I Can Fix This On My Own
Label: Self-released
Year of release: 2018
Genre: algorave, alt-pop, live-coding

In 1994 the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act sought to restrict what authorities considered ‘anti-social’ behaviours, with a particular focus on reducing ‘outdoor rave parties’. The Act defined rave music as that which: “includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”

In 2011 the term Algorave was coined, and adapted this definition to reflect the  practice of making this music which is: “wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive conditionals”. For algorave is music generated by algorithms, often as part of a live-coding event where the musicians are a secondary focus to the code appearing on codes as it is written.

And so to 2018, and Tell Me I Can Fix This On My Own, from Deerful. The moniker of Emma Winston the album was written somewhat quickly, having become unexpectedly acquainted with programming language ixi-lang. This is a language created for generative music-making, seeking not to replicate analogue instruments or studio tools but to be something new and separate to those things. It’s a fascinating thing, not only in the concept of trying to offer a tool which believes in three freedoms (“free as in ‘free beer’, free as in ‘free speech’, and free as in ‘free jazz'”) and which seeks to make music-making accessible to all through visualisations and putting the control with the creator not the software. Utopian stuff where it comes to the opportunities afford by digital.

In the hands of Deerful it has led to an album of beautiful beats and magical bloops mixed with delicate lyrics of friendship and loss. It is simply a stunning album of innovative technique and solid songwriting, a mix which isn’t found ever so often these days.

Opening with ‘Loop’ there is a crunchy pop beat, bringing to mind the brilliant Dragonette-influenced solo album of Girls Aloud’s Nicola Roberts before the vocal kicks in and the vulnerability and heart balances out the machine-sounds, more electro brought to this indiepop as a ‘reward collect’ flourish bringing me aural flashbacks of too many hours spent playing platform game Rainbow Islands.

‘Perseids’ brings in more of those tight electro-flourishes and rounded beats – think early Haiku Salut here – but again it is the very warm, and inescapably human lyrics which make this album such a special one. The sound of waves gently shushes behind ‘This Seaside Town’ as the melody rises and falls along with it.

Closer ‘Sunset Drive’ bounces with a skewiff squidge while a Pet Shop Boys-esque vocal melody weaves around it, as separate but together as the parallel rails of train tracks. And that’s it isn’t it, what Deerful is exploring with this album is the distinction and coalescence between a truly digital sound created by a truly digital tool and the soft organics of voice and thought. Experimental without becoming inaccessible, this is an easy listen of a fascinating form, and the expression of ‘visceral connections that bind you to other people and refuse to let go even when they’re physically absent … the realisation that you are the only person who can steer your own life, and the terror and grief and joy and liberation that affords’.

Huge in scope, intimate in delivery – a must-listen album to fall in love with and explore.

Find Deerful:

Find ixi lang:

Dawn Chorus is a week day feature sharing an album to listen to on your morning commute, the school run, or at other times with the intention of surfacing classics you might not have given time to yet, indulging in old favourites, and helping you discover the best of new releases. If you’d like to suggest an album for the feature, or contribute a guest write up on an album you think more people should hear, get in touch

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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