REVIEW: Denali: The Instinct
Denali: The Instinct [Jade Tree, 2003] (mp3)
Three words? rain dusk 3am
Late last April, on a cold and grey rainy day, I walked back to my home having just bought a coffee. I sported a fashionable (circa 1998) Adidas raincoat, but didn't use the hood. Instead, I let the drops fall on to my hair and slowly drip down my face. I was realising that the relationship I was in was falling apart, and the only thing I wanted at that moment was solitude so I could bask in the numbness. As I sipped my coffee on the dreary stroll back to my humble abode, I had The Gathering's Souvenirs playing in my discman. Its sullen, out-of-this-sphere brand of trip-rock (no, not trip-hop) was the apt soundtrack to my state; I haven't listened to the record since.
So, why am I lulling you with such self-absorbed inanities? Because Denali's The Instinct brings me back to that day and, specifically, to Souvenirs. Denali vocalist Maura Davis has a range that is so close to the Gathering's Anneke van Giersbergen, that it's a scary reminder of the world's small, spherical limitations. Musically, a range of mellow permutations find themselves on The Instinct, all at once shuffling from Clinic's detached splendour to The Dears' neo-cabaret feel.
I'm not surprised that this band is on Jade Tree. The label that got turned down by Morrissey (bastard) specializes in depression proper and Denali fits the bill. But this despondency isn't straight sadness. At times, it doesn't even resemble indie-rock very much. While during first spin the record seems incoherent and forced, as it continually plays a certain charm reveals itself. There's a wide-eyed wonder to Denali, one that whispers "We're hurt, but we won't whine." Instead, the band twirls around and hopes for the best once the dizzy wonder stops. All the while, the reverbed guitars swell and drain back. Moods jump up optimistically and then pull back as if afraid of the inevitable disappointment. The Instinct is much like Thievery Corporation without the electro.
If you stay up late enough, rationality becomes a commodity at a high premium. It's at those golden times that art is at its purest, because the greatest art comes from suffering. Ask Denali. I'm sure there are stories enough to fill a lifetime.