Issue #108: These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere by dné
April 9, 2018
Released On November 18, 2016
Released By Majestic Casual Records
I swear I have grown up on the perpetual hunt for music that makes me feel something, or music that will take me away from my current situation. When I was younger I would spend hours — and I mean hours — on Limewire hunting for a song I had heard on a TV show, or downloading all the songs that my iTunes Genius recommended I would like. I never seemed to have enough space on my iPod (at that point it was a 4GB nano — does anyone even remember what those look like?!). This search hasn’t lessened with time, and no matter how much music I listen to, I’m always on that hunt, even if on a subconscious level.
It’s not so much that I set aside an hour every day to listen to a playlist I haven’t listened to yet or anything like that. Sure, I’ll play my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist or the Release Radar playlist when I am looking to add some new songs into my rotation. But it’s more that I’m listening to music… whenever I can. And I need that too. I use music to help me in almost every aspect of my life — I listen when I am stressed, happy, angry, sad, driving at 3 AM, going to sleep, walking to work. It’s like I am creating a soundtrack to my life every time. So when I hear those songs that need to be added to that soundtrack, it just makes me feel like I’ve won a little jackpot.
Coming across a song on Spotify is how I discovered dné. The song that came up on my weekly shuffle of the Discover Weekly playlist was “Asos Model Crush” and it just stuck with me. I had to play it on repeat for at least an hour, and then I thought to myself, “Well, if I like this song so much, let’s hope there’s more where that came from!’ And thank God there was as this album is one of my staples now for sure.
When looking into the artist a bit more I was shocked, but extremely impressed to learn that he had basically no classic music training. Yet still, he created something so soothing and beautiful to listen to that it’s simply incredible. I love that the titles of the songs are all kind of relatable moments in your life and I know that is what he was aiming to create and share with people. “Meeting Points At 2AM“,” for example, is such a sweet romantic melody; it just makes me feel exactly what a spontaneous moment at 2 AM is, you know?
As much as I love belting out lyrics to songs that I know by heart, not to mention having a feeling described perfectly in the words of a song, I love instrumental music because it almost goes that one step deeper. It makes you feel something that can’t even be put into words, or it relates to a feeling you can’t possibly describe. Music is so personal to me, but I love sharing it with people. I have made some of the best friends and had some of the best moments in my life because of music related experiences. And I love this album in that sense as well because each song is an experience, and the album as a whole leaves me with this amazing feeling of lightness that I’d have after a great concert or festival weekend.
Of course I must also comment on the album artwork. Like I have said in the past, if I am drawn in by the artwork, chances are I am going to enjoy the album. The fact that it has this bubblegum/cotton candy pink colour scheme and was shot at twilight gives it such a dreamy effect which is perfectly suited to the sound of the album. The artist’s goal was to create a timeless experience, and there’s no doubt that he has done exactly that.
Not only do I hope you enjoy listening to this album for the first time, but I hope a new track has been added to the soundtrack of your lives as well, and that you keep adding to that soundtrack any chance you get.
Chelsea Kostrey (@chelseakostrey)
Retrophile & Festival Enthusiast
Czech empyreal musician Ondřej Holý, better known as dné.
Tuesday or Wednesday morning; your morning commute. Bag slung over your shoulder, sleeves rolled up already as you juggle a large coffee in one hand and a bagel half wrapped in paper in the other. Emails to write and conversations to have already swirl through your mind, your day falling away bit by bit under the crush of skyscrapers as you wait on the corner with a million other hurried people. A white light blinks on, the crush of the crowd behind begins to propel you forward, but suddenly all the professional black and navy blue and gray parts and you see her, there, coming toward you, a vision consumed in her own world, heels clicking over chipped crosswalk paint, and you think, it’s you, my great love. As rare and semi-imagined as those moments are, we all crave them. A million movies have been sold on that very idea, that sucker punch of beauty and goodness that hits down low in your gut, and though it might not happen very often, sometimes it does. The time I stayed up all night to read The Great Gatsby; when I found a note in that tree in the cow field; the first time my husband said he was in love with me; the Cindy Sherman that snuck up on me in the museum; the first time I heard These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere. A mosaic of sound, this album quietly flirts with electronic, classical, ambient, and pop influences, never fully inside one genre or the other, but something completely its own. Overwhelmingly hesitant, there are occasional rushes of confidence that inevitably falter, without warning, back down into the unassuming piano that rings out with a clarity reserved for quiet winter mornings alone. Aptly named, the album feels like an overhearing of a private conversation, something I shouldn’t see but can’t turn away from. The unfailing beauty of the album comes in those moments of vulnerability and restraint and the constant awareness of public consumption.
Laura Burroughs (@_thetwors)
Jestful Musical Erudite
In a classic scene from This Is Spinal Tap (let’s face it, they’re all classic scenes!), Nigel Tufnel is playing a lovely, melancholy piece on piano. After listening for a bit, Marty DiBergi asks him what it’s called. The unforgettably hilarious answer: “Lick My Love Pump.” I was reminded of this bit of contextual sleight of hand when I listened to These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere by dné after reading the song titles. Seeing phrases like “Public Making Out Is Like Ugh” or “Reality Swallows Pusheen Cats” made me expect something quite different than what I heard — which was a good thing. Those titles and some others seemed like a crude effort — pandering, if you will — to court a millennial, social media obsessed audience, whether or not they reflected dné’s actual experience in the world. There is such a thing as being too up to the minute! But I pressed play and was instantly captivated by the lush melancholy of “Meeting Points At 2AM“,” a miniature for piano and electronics. “Public Making Out” itself has an almost Satie-esque intro, which is beautifully fucked up by an ice-cold white-noise beat for a truly glorious mashup of textures. Obviously, the guy knows what he’s doing, whatever the titles are, employing classical rigor and masterful concision to avoid getting too drippy. Throwing a vocal track near the middle of the album also helps break things up. “Stay Clothed Though” is a gorgeous slow groove decorated with an excellent little rap by C. Monts, who has definite flow if not much of a track record. dné also mixes things up by adding acoustic guitar here or kalimba there, for a nice variety of sounds to spice things up and creating an elegant, crystalline listening experience. I’m very excited to be introduced to dné and even more delighted to note that he has a new album out, Nothing Like Before, which is a series of brief cues he composed for an HBO documentary. It’s just as sadly beautiful (or beautifully sad?) as TSF,TAE and will definitely be taking a place of pride in my list of 2018’s finest electronic music.
Jeremy Shatan (@anearful)
Prescient & Appreciative Musical Omnivore
Is piano the official instrument of remembering? Certain types of music have a visceral, hard-wired effect on my brain’s chemistry. Banjo would be an example — I tend to feel more at ease when I hear a bluegrass tune begin. A piano played deliberately, as Ondřej Holý plays it at the start of “Meeting Points At 2AM“?” Or softly, like at the start of “Asos Model Crush?” I feel a tug toward the past, and I start searching for the memory woven between and around the notes I’m hearing. Holý’s approach to the instrument offers this great balance of tension and simplicity that opens up a generous space for retrospective thinking, spreading a thin, bittersweet layer over everything. In my mind’s eye, it’s like a glowing golden light. Memory is tricky, though. I played These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere all the way through this weekend on a Saturday family drive. I know that sounds impossibly old-fashioned, but we had this rare opportunity to relax and do pretty much nothing after running a quick errand together, and while we were killing time, I wanted that moment to stretch out forever — or at least for it to be committed to my consciousness’ long-term DVR (I recently became re-obsessed with Radiohead’s “Videotape“). But I know that’s now how it works. You can’t control what sticks with you. “Grey matter files compiled in flawed spaces” is right. By coincidence, a few hours later my wife and I watched Coco, a movie that deals with how music, memory, and family are connected. Let’s just say someone was squeak-crying at the end. I can’t be certain of it, but I hope Saturday will be on my proverbial videotape.
Davy Jones (@youhearthat)
Idealistic Seeker Of Neoteric Sounds
An artist with no formal musical training, this album dné — known off-stage as Ondřej Holý — made is bursting with unfiltered creativity that is not only straightforward and authentic but is ultimately solidified by a sincerely enjoyable set of musical ideas. In short: the charm of this album isn’t simply getting its praise “because raw honesty!” The minimalist combinations of instruments like the standard guitar with reversed phased piano (“More Like It“), and non-musical ambient sounds applied via assorted samplings, leaves listeners with a collection of tracks that appear to embody small and innocent moments of everyday living. On the one hand this might make the album sound like a conceptual cop-out but on the other, listening all the way through, the songs almost feel like they belong in a variety of different films or thought provoking PSAs, possibly highlighting central or subtle-but-emotive moments therein. The looping nature of the samples Holý includes amidst his tracks give the pieces a bit of an experimental touch; sounding just fragmented enough that it’s really hard not to see portions of songs accompanying some other kind of artistic medium. Everything from dramatic string lines (“Meeting Points At 2AM““), to quietly chirping birds (“Friends Cleanse“), to what sounds like muffled announcements echoing over speakers at a public transportation hub, (“Public Making Out Is Like Ugh“) provide the backdrop to Holý’s ideas and, even though separately these elements seem rather miscellaneous, all together they give off a connected air of either serene joy or that kind of cathartic sadness we all sometimes secretly want for ourselves. I hear this as an unexpected but nonetheless perfect assembly of sound design-minded music and even if it never gets used as such, I can still listen to all the tracks and revel in its enhancing of moments in the real world.
Kira Grunenberg (@shadowmelody1)
Prolific Sonic Scribe & Unifier
Don’t get your hopes up — Bill Burr does not cameo here.
The title of this album struck me as odd when I first glanced it, but it was nothing like what I had anticipated it to be. After briefly considering the meaning of the title, it brought home a big wave of feelings for me. These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere is looking to isolate those intense but fleeting moods brought on by our dependencies on social media, and society’s seemingly endless lust for instant gratification and peer reassurance. When this hit me, I felt this warm sinking feeling that I can only think to describe as a comfortable melancholy. I took to the beach with this album in hand because I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my Sunday afternoon than to watch the tide roll in and listen to this beautiful album. dné manages to expertly pinpoint all those fragile sounds your gut associates with beauty and impermanence and encourages you to take a moment for yourself and to get introspective. His work enables you to glimpse into what really makes your head tick in neat three minute increments. Obviously, I have nothing but good things to say about this album, but the epitome of its success is how dné has captured an emotional chameleon like quality. To clarify, whether you’re feeling peaceful or distressed, this album is sure to be a cathartic rise and repeat for your brain. As a fragile 24-year-old, on the edge of graduation, real-life, and generally just struggling to contemplate almost a quarter century of life on this crazy rock cascading through space, I feel so insignificant, but at least with this album acting as my soundtrack I don’t feel so alone.
Erin Calvert (@erinpcalvert)
Elder Goth In The Making
I have a confession to make: when I see quirky song titles, like “Public Making Out Is Like Ugh,” “Reality Swallows Pusheen Cats,” and “Driving A Car While Listening To Bill Burr’s Podcast” (all of which are actual titles for songs on this album), I expect something like a Dillinger Four-influenced pop-punk album, or a Drowningman-style metalcore album. To say that I was surprised to find an album of pleasant, understated electronic music is something of an understatement. However, once I got beyond my initial shock, I quite enjoyed the sounds dné presented to me on These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere. The fact that many of the songs are based around melodies played on solo piano makes these sort of like electronic sonatas, though the addition of programmed beats and synths takes this far from the world of classical music. After a couple of pleasant listens, during which this album soothed my jangled nerves, I realized that the main thing I heard in dné’s music was the “folktronica” sounds of Four Tet, especially as heard on that artist’s landmark 2003 release, Rounds. I’ve always thought “folktronica” was a bit of a ridiculous genre name, but if anything it makes more sense here than it does for Four Tet, as the use of acoustic instruments including guitars as well as pianos and even handclap percussion make very clear that there’s a human behind the music created here by dné. One track does come close to breaking the mood; the addition of rapper C. Monts to “Stay Clothed Though” transforms a song that is very much of a piece with the rest of the album into a moody trip hop track that bears closest resemblance to those early Massive Attack tracks featuring Tricky’s introspective, understated rhymes. However, even a relative departure like this song has a lot to offer a listener who has already been enjoying the sonic textures of These Semi Feelings, even if it does stand out from what surrounds it. On the whole, this album is an excellent example of downtempo relaxation fodder for those late-night pensive moods, and at least where I’m concerned, it comes highly recommended.
Drew Necci (@buzzorhowl)
Insightful Scholar Of The Underground
I’ve said this many times before on OYR with similar wording: most times when you hear music, and you have no idea how to classify it, you’re probably listening to something really great and original. And of course, I have no earthly clue what to call These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere. You know what? Being that I’m still haunted by last week’s episode of Atlanta (the “Michael Jackson episode,” as I choose to call it), I can draw an immediate parallel between this record, and one of my current favorite TV shows. I have a theory that Atlanta, the entire surreal series, is one long dream sequence. Or a series of dream sequences, not bound by linear thinking or even the laws of physics (remember the invisible car?). And I’ll be damned if TSFTAE doesn’t give me the same dream-like qualities. This record could easily be a film score. The seemingly nonsensical titles make the listener’s mind wander with each eerie piano chord — “ok, so what inspired this one?” I can’t be the only one that had a series of disturbing thoughts during “Public Making Out Is Like Ugh.” Further, I often expect Atlanta to take the seemingly obvious turn, only to have my expectations shattered time and again. As a producer, I expected heavy drums to dropout certain points, thinking “well maybe this is just a really weird beat tape,” but no, dné kept me guessing the whole way through.
Kellen “J. Clyde” Ford (@jclyde757)
Steadfast Hip-Hop Historian & Creator
The keyboard’s spacious capabilities drives the sound of dné, carefully bridging the gap between classical and electronica.
It’s true what they say. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or, in this case, I suppose, don’t judge an album by its album or song titles. Scrolling through the track list for dné’s These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere, I got the impression that this might be an emo album of sorts: Between 2013 and 2016, I would dig through the emo tag on Bandcamp and I discovered plenty of piano-driven bands that used song titles like “4am again… that’s fine” and “Arizona Tea.” Seeing songs called “Public Making Out Is Like Ugh” and “Reality Swallows Pusheen Cats,” I immediately jumped to the conclusion that dné was a similar artist that had somehow flew under my radar. I am unashamed to admit that I was wrong. While I certainly had never come across dné in my time digging around Bandcamp, These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere is full of laid-back grooves, minimal lyrics, and stylistically I would say that it has more in common with past OYR artist Novelty Daughter than any of the bands that I was thinking about. Just by using my untrained ears to listen to this album, it sounds like there’s very little that wasn’t recorded using a piano and sampled drum loops, and it’s this bare bones approach (plus the song titles, of course) that draws me into the music. There’s a contrast of heavy beats and a lightly sprinkled piano in “Driving A Car While Listening To Bill Burr’s Podcast” that makes me want to… well, not drive a car while listening to Bill Burr because that joke would be too obvious, and because if I did that then I wouldn’t be able to listen to the song, but it does make me appreciate how great music can be made with so few components. Then there’s the last minute and a half or so of “Unnecessary Conversations” which makes me want to melt into my couch and forget about everything else happening around me. I haven’t listened to enough mostly instrumental albums lately, and this is one that I needed this week. I, for one, am glad that this wasn’t the type of album I thought it was going to be.
Dustin Gates (@cmoncheermeup)
Relapsed Pop Culture Junkie
These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere is the soundtrack to a dream I’ve had but can’t remember — maybe several. Its swirls and periphery noises are, I’m certain, the exact sound effects one would use to recreate one or more of my dreams on film. dné makes music that alternates between stunning beauty and uncomfortable weirdness; sometimes it feels logical, sometimes it feels random and/or out of sequence. And much like dreams, These Semi Feelings is both familiar and distant. But because it sounds and feels like a dream, there’s a kind of internal logic that allows it all to make sense. That’s probably because, like The Drug Models Love and Rafter, Ondřej Holý fucks with the boundaries of musical genres and, by extension, genre itself. Only then can you have music that is by turns disorienting, soothing, meandering, and sharp and have any (or all) of it cohere. More than once while listening this week, parts of the album felt so intimate that I thought, “Get outta my head.” There’s really only one way to describe something that borders on impossible like peering into someone’s dreams: It’s a goddamn magic trick.
Steve Lampiris (@stevenlampiris)
Sure, Let’s Go With That
As often happens, my experience with this album was heavily influenced by my preconceptions that I developed from reading the names of the tracks. Songs with titles like “Driving A Car While Listening To Bill Burr’s Podcast” and “Public Making Out Is Like Ugh” had me thinking that this would be an album full of lightning-fast punk songs. Even after the first track was over, I thought, “Ok, that was an intro track. This thing is surely about to go off.” And it never did. What a fascinating listening experience, bracing myself for one thing while a completely different thing unfolds before me. I thought this album was beautiful and I was really happy to hear the vocals on the few tracks that had vocals, because a “mostly instrumental but with sporadic vocals” album is far more interesting to me than a purely instrumental album. My favorite tracks were “Friends Cleanse” (which pulled me in from the rhyme in the title) coupled with the track that follows it, “More Like It.” Overall, I would say that the thing that captured my attention the best was how the tiny details of the album revealed themselves and became things to anticipate. Towards the end of “Friends Cleanse”, there is this… I don’t know, exactly… adjustment of the guitar plugin? Actually, it sounds more like an additional audio track made it briefly onto the mix, but then it didn’t actually have anything of substance on it… that puts the whole thing in a different context. These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere is such an odd, quirky album and I love it quite a lot.
James Anderson (@unabashedjames)
Devoted Docent Of Musical Concepts
Expansive, deep beyond comprehension at times, and full of piquant melodies as dainty as they are pensive, this music is quite frankly stunning in its presentation and delivery. Normally, you’d point to music like this as being a pocket world that the musician has created, a sonic plane if you will where one can create, frolic, and explore all on his own. But I don’t think that’s what dné has done here. Though unique and special, this isn’t a “new” world at all — this is the world we all know and live in, just one we maybe haven’t opened our eyes to. It’s not selective or bound by any genres. Really listen to the music and you’ll hear how sweeping it gets, with songs that are as conducive for Justin Vernon to sit in on as they are a rapper like C.Monts (who pops up on “Stay Clothed Though“). Maybe that’s not so impressive given Vernon’s work with Kanye West, but Kanye also achieves that through bombastic productions that are extensively layered whereas this is something that could be recorded in a single session. The importance of this though is that if you let it, this music can enhance your own experiences. You might not be turning your nose up at PDA or making mindless small talk like dné did, but you can find comfort in similar situations with a soundtrack that says more than words ever could.
Doug Nunnally (@musicdoug)
Garrulous Aural Braggart
Grief Pedigree by Ka
Chosen By Kellen “J. Clyde” Ford