Dungeonesse - Dungeonesse

Dungeonesse - Dungeonesse

A false approximation in place of the real thing.

Rating:

In her work here as Dungeonesse, a side project with Baltimore writer/producer John Ehrens (of White Life and Art Department),Wye Oak vocalist Jenn Wasner has taken a turn into unfamiliar territory. It marks a clear departure from her previous, low-key, indie folk-rock output with Wye Oak, and her guest spots on other albums (most notably on ‘To Old Friends and New’ from Titus Andronicus’ excellent sophomore album ‘The Monitor’). Combining dance-pop programming with studied R&B vocals, this debut often comes across like a careful examination of the art of constructing a dancefloor-ready pop album. While, at times, the music here sounds like you’d imagine Grimes would if Claire Boucher had spent more time listening to Mandy Moore records and less watching David Lynch films, too often it sounds a little too academic, as though the two had worked hard to piece together an idea of what people having fun might sound like.

Whether it be the Red Bull-fuelled dance-pop of ‘Drive You Crazy’ or the goofier ‘Cadillac’, featuring a turn from Baltimore rapper DDm, the album comes to life when they throw the textbooks out and start having fun. On the flipside however, is ‘Anywhere You Are’, another highlight and a rare moment seemingly capturing Wasner with her guard down, wearily confessing that “(e)ven though I know it’s gonna end the same, I’m always running right back to you.’ It demonstrates an emotional depth only really hinted at elsewhere and is all the stronger for it. With this track, Wasner delivers perhaps the album’s standout vocal performance, the vulnerability adding a depth and texture to what is elsewhere a composed, measured (admittedly impressive) showing. Ultimately though, there are too many times here where these tracks sound too contrived and calculated, a false approximation in place of the real thing.