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Richard Davis - Details

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Artist: Richard Davis

Album: Details

Label: Kitty-Yo

Review date: Aug. 18, 2005

Dance music discourse traditionally speaks of uplift, emotional elation, the imperatives of the massive, and the psychological profile of the dancefloor-as-one. That’s fine, but the emotional tenor of dance music just as often turns 180° into heartbreak and melancholy, the lone figure about to gush forth in a torrent of hyper-emotional physicality: the ‘tears-on-the-floor’ syndrome. For every raver who has burst into tears of joy as the DJ pushes everything to the next gear, there’s the wallflower off to the side, the dancer desperately trying to and unaccountably unable to forget the day’s emotional rollercoaster.

Richard Davis’ Details doesn’t hover on that precipice so much as it soundtracks every blush of sorrow that hits when we least expect or desire it. His songs, built on greyscale pianos, weepy cello and lackadaisical rhythms, tug at the heartstrings as though they’re trying to break the seal and inflate your torso to bursting point. Here is a man who understands the tightness of the chest that comes with emotional anxiety or the burden of relationship uncertainty. Davis’ voice manifests it best: he sounds like the forgotten son, singing as he sees reflections of himself in the window, reciting lines about emotional evacuation, breakdowns in inter-personal communication and relationship trauma. On “The Truth” Davis dissects his voice, sprinkling stray syllables across the surface of the song as though he is unable to articulate anything of significance. When he later sings the simple phrase “holding you close,” he sounds hesitant, as though his faith has lapsed.

Details is unbearably gorgeous precisely because we’re so enamoured of our own shortcomings and downfalls, always irrepressibly obsessed with the tightrope of sentiment and resentment we tread every day. His songs navigate the very space marked by being ‘on the edge of tears,’ just avoiding the kind of ‘emotional blackmail’ Barthes recognises in the weeping subject (“Look what you have done to me.”) For some reason, Davis cannot quite make that final leap. By “Bring Me Closer” he is experiencing the ultimate disconnect, sighing to the other “nothing you can say will bring me closer” before being slowly subsumed and swamped by the swell of strings.

By Jon Dale

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