Darkwave delights ‘Paint a Picturesque’ of Deer Thomas
Deer Thomas is the name gifted to a musical adventure by the artist formally known as Rupe Rabble. For you punk lovers out there, you may indeed recognize this name. The Rabble was an Auckland based punk sensation which has earned itself quite an extensive Wikipedia write up. Mr Rupe Rabble (aka Rupert Hill-Hayr) has turned his attention from punk drummer to darkwave/indi/alternative/postpunk singer/song writer, picking up the guitar and producing sound-scapes and lyric musing from ‘the spare room’ in Foxton (literally the spare room of his house where he records) under the enchanting name of Deer Thomas.
In October 2016, he released his debut album on bandcamp, free for download or ‘name your price’. And it amazes me that this hasn’t yet received high levels of attention on home soil.
Paint a Picturesque, the album title, has a surreal feeling to it, It’s fresh and melodic, taking you on a soulful journey through heart and mind. At times, you can almost hear the graceful dance of moonlight stags through the dense woodlands, or the startled halt of a deer caught in headlights. There is a mystery in the racy strums and husky vocals that feels familiar yet uncharted.
The album opens with ‘The swan’, melodic distorted booms – echoing heart beats, slowly sweeping into fast distorted guitar and racing drums – mimicking a swan’s take off from the pond. By the time the serenading quality of the sweetly gritty vocals have hit in, you feel as though you are fast floating to some yet unknown destination. ‘dance me to the end of time, where darkness brings the pure light’ and indeed that encapsulates the over-riding feel of the whole album.
These fast pasted strumming’s don’t ease up across ‘Celestial’, which seem only to bring you quicker into the deeper and darker cervices of the album. By ‘Mountain Rose’, you feel well and truly like you are spiralling in the thick of a psychological introspection; a song contemplating the balance of the fragility, savagery and beauty of nature. Its subtitled as an Ambient track, with a dark lullaby tune and a stunning narrative, the images I see in my head are some of the most enchanting on the whole album. It’s a haunting feeling that gets under your skin in a very satisfying way.
‘Masquerading Bones’, positioned in the middle of the album, tagged ‘experimental’, using a collection of raw sounds is the grittiest track on the album. Forced husky vocals reach out of the speakers with an urgency that no other track possesses. Coupled with a rhythmic repetition of ‘row’, it feels almost neo-shamanic. With no fade or break, It quickly turns into ‘Try to Understand.’ For an instant this seems unsettling, but it is like the urgency is being washed away as the rainfall and xylophonic sounds sweep over you. The echoed vocals layer over slow rhythmic tones, like the calm after the storm. It’s the moment in the album where everything seems to melt into peace as though this is the heart of the forest, the clearing we have been hasting our way into, a moment of meditative acceptance, serene stillness, total balance.
‘Higher you’, carries on from the softness that ‘Try to Understand’ left us with and slowly increases the intensity back into the furious strumming that seems to have become iconic of Deer Thomas. As the track progresses, it’s as if we are leaving the centre of the forest, now speeding away with the same intensity we arrived with. There is a taste of cynical seeping in now, a hardening that wasn’t quite present before. ‘Paint a Picturesque’, the title track of the album, seems to echo Celestial in some ways, the same urgency of destination, as if taking us out with the same fever that Celestial brought us in with. It’s tinged in a bitter taste, ‘go weigh your scales on that wedding dress, soon you’ll be disappointed by the wounds that you’ll undress’. As if what had been before left a bad taste in the mouth, this track seems to spit it clean, clearing the way for the final track on the album which is a close second to Mountain Rose for me.
‘Arms length’ is the track the artist himself says is: “the ‘acoustic’ closer, recorded live to take, despite being the most mellow track on the album. As the lyric’s ‘I think I’ve found the right questions, have you ever stepped naked into the sunlight? What I mean is, have you ever stood barefoot in the moons shadow?’ seem to annotate the outcome’.
The detailed finger picking, conjuring images to mind of the spider weaving its web or wrapping its feed, accompanied by the same echoed vocals from ‘Try to Understand’, create a very personal feeling, like everything that has gone before is being wrapped up and sucked dry and then unpicked to be scattered to the wind, ‘de-robed’, leaving only echo’s of ‘nothing left’ as the album closes.
Across the album, there is a dark, gritty undertone that I can only presume signifies his punk rock history, but its drenched in a series of vocal and musical notes that have an elevating quality, almost transcendent, sublime even. You feel the emotional weights that pull at the dark recess of the soul, yet there is a high light inspiring quality which drenches you top heavy in a polarity of bliss and despair. Both lyrically and musically, there is a complexity to the album, driving you to listen again and again, each time picking out new technicalities or philosophies to indulge in. An album running around only 30 minutes, by the last track, you feel left wanting, as if not quite enough to satisfy the itch. Even if the music isn’t to you taste, I highly recommend reading through the lyrics and having a look through the Facebook page because this artist is a very talented words smith, if the music won’t leave you haunted in an insightful beautiful stain, the words surely will stay with you long after you have left the page.