If you’re passing through East London between now and December 7th, take some time to visit space studios in Hackney where conceptual confuddler Dean Blunt is showcasing his third solo exhibition, ‘New Paintings’. A series of eight untitled works all of which featuring the Evisu Jeans logo emblazoned on selvedge denim canvases in a variety of pastel shades. These “paintings” come packaged with the simple quote: “the good die young, ball in heaven”. Blunt has cultivated a reputation that now proceeds him as a not-so-merry-prankster. He told The Wire in September “I do things. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m an arsehole. Maybe this prankster thing is not even something I have chosen, it’s something maybe I am – Whatever is communicated through the purity of intention is out of my hands.”
The exhibition leaves a lot to be desired, much like his ‘Urban’ debacle at the ICA earlier this year – a performance shrouded in faux-enigma which played on hype and “the turn-up” of the audience. His own (bodyguard-accompanied) performance in the recital of a poem took a backseat while a screening of a Kevin Hart stand up DVD comprised the crux of the evening. Everything this man does appears to be a recontextualisation of black American street culture. Straight up refusing to give the crowd what they think they want, he strikes a bullseye for effectiveness in his process. Constantly testing the audience, Blunt is reappropriating what it means to be an “artist” today.
‘Black Metal’ is his second solo studio album and picks up where he left off with ‘The Redeemer’ last year. Where that record told a detached story of heartbreak and “Black London love” this one furthers the singular techniques he developed with Inga Copeland during the Hype Williams saga. Sounding like an experimental take on classic Brit Pop sensibilities cross-pollinated with cheap drum machine jams, he has channeled another tainted vision of lost London love. Featuring heavy drug and Hip Hop referencing in both lyrics and song titles – ‘Mersh’, ‘Grade’, ‘Molly & Aquafina’, his anxious poetry is subtly masked in whimsical melody and the hazy guitar strummings of Joanne Robertson, a London based singer who helps form some of the most musical moments on the record. Her haunting duet with Blunt on ‘50 Cent’ stands out in particular, the lyrics “I can not believe…you’re back again, back again…” reverberate softly atop Blunt’s incantations of messing with explosives and running from the 5-0. The juxtaposition of the track with a video tribute to former midfielder Ian Wright (Blunt being an Arsenal fan) is comical and can be best described as being typically Dean Blunt.
Tracks like the French Montana referencing ‘Molly & Aquafina’, ‘100’ & ‘Blow’ are slow ballads, following a more regimental band-style song structuring before a turning-point is reached in the thirteen minute opus ‘Forever’ where drum machines ramifications and the lament of a saxaphone appear to take the LP down a sample based diversion with heavy roadworks. Hazy synth, cheap piano licks and clamouring notes establish ‘X’ as a murky lo-fi love song, until powerful lyrics take hold and a random verse of Patois brings a sharp and serious conclusion.
‘Punk’ is a slinky jam which stands out on this LP for it’s dubby melody, with a string of shoobeedoobee’s bringing about an overwhelming desire to sway from side to side in a heavily sedated stupor. Not having done anything outrageous for a minute, Blunt decides to play erratically with the volume controls on his Macbook on ‘Country’ which acts as a distorted interlude before the dark final three songs where he opens up and raps more freely than ever before.
‘Black Metal’ is post post-modern record. Asides from the superlatively black packaging (the only wavering feature being the Parental Advisory sticker) unpredictable video uploads, intense interviews and all the little intricacies in between, it boils down to the music at the end of the day and what we’re left with is a remarkable record that flows seamlessly in it’s obscurity. Blunt remains ruthless in his craft, keeping us on our toes.
‘Black Metal’ is out now on Rough Trade Records and available to buy on vinyl and CD formats here