In today’s fast-paced world time is precious. Some bands deserve your time, and this is one of them. Duologue are the antithesis of pop music’s current disposable cultural impasse. Their debut album is an immersive experience intended to be absorbed and cherished with repeated listens, not to be heard once on laptop speakers and disregarded. Much like a great novel, this one is hard to put down and will stay with you forever.
The London five-piece are a product of the modern world and its easy access to music. Bonding over a mixture of the best in electronica and guitar-based music, they’ve fused this eclecticism into a truly inimitable sound of their own. “You could pick some songs and we’d be likened to a folk act, another few and we’d be called dubstep,” explains front man Tim Digby-Bell. How many bands can you say that about? Their cerebral experimentation may not be mainstream, but it’s fast becoming a favourite among the cognoscenti.
The journey began with two original members – Tim Digby-Bell and Toby Leeming (vocals/live programming and beats) – producing on a computer whilst at Edinburgh University. Both realised what they were creating was too big for just a couple of people to play. Seb Dilleyston was brought in to add emotive atmospheres on violin having previously trained with world renowned violinist Maria Eitler. Toby Lee was next on guitar, and then bassist Ross Stone completed the line-up.
Early gigs in their nascent career were explosive in more ways than one. Aside from gaining a scintillating live reputation they were also becoming known for having things blow up onstage. A show at London’s Shepherd’s Bush saw the lights shatter above their heads as soon as the set began, and at The Barfly in Camden Town there was an electrical fire halfway through their performance. Whether or not the crowd thought these mishaps were all part of a unique live show will remain a mystery but one thing is for certain, their status on the road grew exponentially and support slots for everyone from Matthew Dear to Clock Opera have followed.
What makes the band so compelling is that they are just that, a band. Refusing to rely too heavily on programmed elements, each layer comes to life in the live arena. “We wanted to have moments where we can strip it down to the bare essentials, really intimate moments, and then to build up to these epic electronic parts too. It needs to feel like a real journey,” says Tim.
The debut album is the culmination of a year’s preparation honing and self editing their eclectic sound and huge catalog of demos in preparation to record. Having already self-produced and released two EP’s showcasing their ability to encompass a wide range of sounds and references the final piece of the puzzle came with the introduction of producer Jim Abbiss (Adele, Arctic Monkeys, Ladytron). In March 2012 the band and Jim holed up in a Chatham studio and began work – with many of the parts already formed and recorded, Jim took on a co-production role, intuitively helping them further enhance their sonic make-up. Digital synths were replaced by richer analogue gear, real strings replaced programmed ones, and even the inclusion of a church organ. “The church was really chilled. I slightly lied. I said we’d dropped £15 in the collection box,” laughs Toby. Nonetheless they’ve been blessed with a great collection of songs from the process.
‘Push It’ is the lynchpin. A four-four dance beat gives structure to a hauntingly atmospheric six minute epic of lyrical self-doubt. Soaring strings and guitar melodies combine in the pinnacle which sees the guys playing to the limit, giving their all in a song replete with daedal rhythms. ‘Escape Artist’ shows they’re equally adept at the other end of the scale. At their most stripped back, this one is rooted in simple harmonies combining live vocals and looped brass samples, yet carries as much emotive weight as the more layered moments. ‘Gift Horse’ is a beautiful lullaby mixing swooning strings with electronic glitches in a contrasting way that will leave audiences rapt. It’s a debut showing courage, refusing to take one path or another, daring to avoid being pigeon-holed yet cohesive enough to stand firmly as an impressive body of work.
Tim’s powerful voice ties all the diversity together, a rich falsetto, he floats effortlessly amid an ever changing backdrop of beats, synths, and strings, molding his own melodies on a patchwork sound-mosaic already replete with creativity. ‘Constant’ sees his melismatic vocal style delicately accompanied by lilting guitar picking in a real highlight.
Due for release in January, this record is the culmination of a journey, yet it’s just the beginning of one too for an intelligent group of musicians intent on longevity. Such experimentation, bold self-belief, skillful songwriting, and unique fusing of musical genres are incredibly rare, and this is only the first album…