I first heard about Dumbo Gets Mad after stumbling across his “Plumy Tail” track on a mix or podcast somewhere on the vast expanse that is the Internet. The exact details are sketchy, but the bottom line is clear. The song instantly had me hooked. It transported me back to a time before my own, a time where sounds were far more raw and free from the boundaries of cadence. I decided to do some online sleuthing on the sonic architect behind the Dumbo Gets Mad moniker and came up with very little info. Basically he’s Italian and makes good music with old equipment. In retrospect that’s all the information I needed! I heard a few more singles and was equally impressed. So imagine my delight when I was asked to review the debut album: Elephants At The Door.
So how does the album fair in my humble opinion? I’m no sound engineer but this whole release sounds like it has been recorded on a battered Revox in a dusty rehearsal space somewhere. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing. At time where hyper-production and over polishing is rife, Dumbo Gets Mad brings some much needed roughness to the prim and proper and often predictable output from many musicians and bands. Dumbo effortlessly creates an outsider sound that makes this debut release contagious and almost hypnotic in places. The simple riffs once layered by their eclectic creator sound full and complex with weighty bass and psychedelic sounds.
The album as a body of work gave me a completely different feeling compared to the earlier singles. As I said “Plumy Tail” took me to a musical time gone-by. But after listening to Elephants At The Door I realized that it was far more modern than my initial hunch. The rich and heavy layering of sound reminded me of the recent Jneiro Jarel release: Fauna. Elephants is raw, undiluted sound with multi-coloured, kaleidoscopic vocals. It didn’t surprise me that Dumbo Gets Mad named Brain Feeder’s: Flying Lotus & Gonjasufi as inspirations for the Elephants At The Door release. The influence is very clear once you take a step back from the seemingly messy sounds and arrangements used on this album. I know that I keep using negative words to describe this album (“rough”, “messy” and “hypnotic”) but I really like it. I have been playing it for a while now and I have found it easy to slip into a trance like state whilst listening. Each song flows into the next. It feels like a musical dream sequence with highs and lows. At times the listening experience is a little intense, the loud building of sound might not be everyone’s taste all of the time. Elephants At The Door is musical magic mushrooms.
Take a listen to tracks like “Marmelade Kids” to hear an example of the straight-up quality songwriting and arrangement. The analogue keys matched with a snappy drum beat work as the perfect backdrop for the haunting vocals. Then there are tracks like “Raymond Play”. Dumbo Gets Mad’s curve ball track. The vocals sound so dated, like a 1970s throwback. It could be a Bay City Rollers track or something. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be my bag. But it fits so perfectly with the rest of the album. Additional vocals come courtesy of Dumbo’s girlfriend which is a nice touch and a welcomed extension to the albums flow and sound. I like this album; even if it’s a little trippy I can’t help but admire its bravery and carefreeness.