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Album Review: Dems – Muscle Memory

Dems

Artist: Dems
Album:  Muscle Memory
Number of Tracks: 10
Release Date: 3rd November 2014
Label: Sew In Love Records

Having spent the last year garnering a devoted fan base, as well as achieving widespread critical acclaim, on the 3rd November, Dems, a trio from South London, are releasing their hugely anticipated debut album titled Muscle Memory.

Starting off with the first song on the debut LP from Dems, Sinking in the Sorry  instantly emits an incredibly mellow vibe, transitioning into an interesting fusion of sounds. This is a great introductory track, beginning slowly with some piano chords, before a high pitch, stabbing synthesiser joins the mix as a precursor to the softly sung vocals of Dan Moss. However, it’s not long before a flood of those synthesiser parts join a variety of others, fleshing out a kind of soft synth drop that phases in and out around a kick drum. With the mixture of Moss’s voice and electronic sounds in the background the track really does make a good impression, making you want to listen to more and more.

Continuing with the chilled out vibe, Sense of an Ending  starts off quietly with a looping guitar section in the background, slowly increasing in volume with repeating vocals only saying the line ‘And I must go back and tell the story over’ until the end of the track. With a multitude of effects taking hold of simple guitar and vocal parts, it feels that Dems’ focus lies with trying to create an array of more interesting sounds than a simple guitar part, making full-use of the effects that are available to them. This is something which could potentially give Dems a lot of room for experimentation with their music, which is without a doubt, an exciting prospect.

When comparing the first two tracks on Muscle Memory to the third track, Wake, it has a much more upbeat sound than anything so far, but saying this, it manages to keep the same relaxed feel of Sinking in the Sorry. There is still the continuing trend of using many effects (including a lot of reverb) to add more depth to the compositions, but Wake’s use of sounds also puts these effect-heavy parts simultaneously in contrast with elements with far fewer effects, such as the tight percussion parts within the track. The use of varying levels of effects really emphasises the vocal ambience, whilst maintaining a solid base for the song with the more energetic and dance-worthy percussion parts, something which keep the track interesting.  The changes in the sound of Wake in comparison with the first two tracks on Muscle Memory make it able for the album to feel like a real evolution of styles, rather than a number of tracks just thrown together, which keeps things slightly different, yet not too far away from what seems to be the theme of Muscle Memory.

The fourth track Made for Myself starts and brings us back to the chilled fusion of sounds that Dems have shown that they can make work over and over again. Opening with majestic, yet sad-sounding brass parts, Dems’ blend of sounds once again focus on  creating an atmosphere-driven backdrop for the soft and airy vocals of Moss. The composition on this album is very James Blake-esque (not that this is a bad thing), and the trio can really do this style of music justice. Although, it does feel as though certain elements are being over-used throughout the album. For example, this guitar parts within this track feel almost identical to some of the previous tracks, which can seem a little too similar and uninteresting, given the generally slow, and atmospheric delivery of most of the compositions up until this point of the album.

Half way through the Muscle Memory though, the South London trio gives us Got No Brains, creating a lighter and faster track that again, provides us another easy-listening, yet engages the listener more. Got No Brains features Moss’ vocals as more of a central focus than any of the titles before it, opening with his lyrics over a soft and simple synthesiser-based backdrop. This track once again features some very intricate, yet minimal production, which seems to be Dems’ signature sound. It’s a sound that is very cleverly detailed and expansive, yet is humble and resides throughout the tracks, without trying to fight for attention.

Moving onto the sixth track on the album, Muscle Memory is the title song of the album and rightly so. With delicate vocals and a real sing-along chorus, you just don’t want this song to end. Although, there is a very sad feel to the lyrics that Moss is singing, which makes this this track quite emotional and hold a lot more meaning than when initially listened to, adding depth, but also a little less enjoyment of the chorus.  

Nearing the end of the debut LP, is the seventh track on the album Lioness, which is also the first single from the album, and brings some of Moss’ falsetto vocals into the mix again, with it blending into some more synthesiser parts. The really special part about this track though, is when “Lioness” is first sung, it’s just very unique in terms of the way it’s delivered. It’s almost psychedelic sounding, but in a much less ‘trippy’ way, and once again is very easy on the ears. As with many of the songs on this release, the composition becomes much busier towards the latter half, something which can get a bit old, when it’s the same format for most of (if not all) of the tracklist.

Changing the tempo quite drastically, Lioness is followed by Never Have Never Will, an atmospheric track, with the ability to make you sit back and think about life; with the haunting lyrics “I don’t understand it. Never have, never will” being sung, before transitioning nicely into the intensely romantic track Desire. Both of these songs are good, but they sound pretty similar to a large proportion of the rest of the album, which is great for easy-listening, but can feel a bit repetitive.

Bringing their debut album to an end, Night Tales is the finishing song that concludes Muscle Memory on a high, in a very Dems-sounding way, reinforcing their sound and gently concluding the Muscle Memory experience.

Overall, this LP really is a good listen, and with this being their debut LP, the team of Dan Moss, David Gardener and Duncan Mann show that they are able to create beautiful songs that will comfortably sit alongside similar artists within the genre. However, the tracks are all quite minimalistic and delicate, meaning the listener really has to listen closely to be able to distinguish between most of the titles on the tracklist, something which could be a little off-putting for some audio enthusiasts. Whilst the music is very well-produced and arranged, the album does lack variety on the whole, turning what could be a great listening experience into one which may become a bit lacking for some. Although, considering each track on its own, there are few faults and each are enjoyable to listen to. If this is the debut album from Dems, then the trio may soon be finding a lot more success as they progress and explore the possibilities of their sounds in the future.

 To find out more about Dems, you can visit their:

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Words by Jack Eaton & Luke Kibble. 

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21-year-old third year Computer Science student at the University of Hertfordshire that often gets mistaken for the Milkybar kid.

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