Big Balloon

Dutch Uncles

Memphis Industries, 2017

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Manchester England’s Dutch Uncles has been making quirky art rock music since 2008. While the band’s fifth release, Big Balloon, follows the same general musical makeup of the previous releases, it is the band’s most muscular sounding record to date.

Asthe band themselves admits, this disc derives musical inspiration from Kate Bush’s The Red Shoes and David Bowie’s Low-era. However, these guys are original enough to have a sound that’s completely their own. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Big Balloon has the aesthetics of ‘80s R&B and funk-infused pop rock. Dutch Uncles brings this influence into their signature musical realm of complex musical arrangements, driven by heavy bass and drums, to create music that is unorthodox and unique.

The album’s opening title track has thumping drums along with wild bass playing, which sound as if the bass strings are being chomped up by a rabid creature. This maniacal rhythm section is soothed by frontman Duncan Wallis’ calming voice. This co-existence of the might of the music with the softness of Wallis’ singing keeps the album edgy and pleasant at the same time. For instance, “Same Plane Dream” has a cacophonous musical arrangement that sounds angry and dissonant until Wallis’ swooning vocals totally transform it from a state of skittishness into a lulling one.

Big Balloon is an album full of surprises, offering something new to discover with every listen. One of the big reasons for this is the unpredictability of the songs themselves. Even in their three to four minute pop format, there are constant changes – for instance, the string sections that pop up during the most unexpected moments, which keep the music interesting. Sometimes, the changes aren’t subtle and come as big surprises.

For example, “Overton” starts off with slow dirge-like strings, giving the impression that it is the typical slow track that is usually shoved to the end of an album. But close to a minute or so in, it suddenly explodes into beautifully executed chaos, with guitars and bass playing clamorously, led by frantic drumming. In the case of “Achameleon,” just its very presence on this album is a surprise; it is a completely orchestral cut amid tracks dominated by charged-up bass guitar and drums.

Big Balloon is bold, colorful, and adventurous; it is an album that is as fascinating as it is brilliant.

Rating: A

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© 2017 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Memphis Industries, and is used for informational purposes only.