Review: Jean D.L. – Early Nights

Jean D.L. - Early NightsJean D.L. introduced himself to me as an “experimental guitar player”, which set a certain expectation going in to Early Nights. For the first part of the record I feel as though I can’t hear Jean D.L. at all; instead, I hear ovular hums evaporating organically off of the strings, changing between notes with the unforced grace of lights rippling in puddle reflection. On “Perche”, I feel like I’m drunkenly collapsed in an alley at night, drunkenly watching an urban world of halogen and polluted starlight spin over my head. The tones are hazy and delicately warped, while Jean D.L. is nowhere to be seen – the sound floats, undirected and without distinct origin, as a by-product of environmental circumstance rather than an interaction between player and instrument.

By the time we’ve reached “..” however, Jean D.L. is fully present. He attacks the strings with wolverine claws, scrabbling over the frets to produce the guitar equivalent of a coughing fit, sometimes striking actual notes between the crunch of compacting metal. He is a vivid and violent image. With the subsequent two parts of “Xanela” he has receded again – in part, at least – to become a tiny speck among a reverb and vertiginous low-frequency drone, placing him on a 1000ft plinth in a gigantic underground space. He throttles the guitar neck with vigour, but his actions almost feel feeble in the midst of such a cavernous room. He is alone and inconsequential. I think about how rare it is to hear a guitarist transforming himself like this. Jean D.L. lowers his own opacity to fade into the landscape or shrinks into the shadow of his amplifier, shifting between ghost and insect and puppeteer.