The title of Dama Scout’s new album gen wo lai translates as “come with me” and this could not be more apt for an album that calls for you to follow it into the hyper-coloured landscape of Dama Scout’s surreal imagination, what the band call “a portal between worlds”. Hearing the single releases from this album over the last few months has been a weird and wonderful delight but it’s only in hearing the songs together that the full beauty of the band’s world has opened up. Like reading a few chapters of Alice Through The Looking Glass and then being handed the whole book.
The band slide effortlessly around their dreamy world weaving pillowy-soft melodies and undulating rhythms but often with a sense of danger playing in the corners and under the floorboards. In amongst the beauty there is a sense of something wicked this way coming. The title track is built on gravelly vibrations, synth-string pizzicato and evokes “an image of (singer) Liu’s grandmother eating chicken feet” (her family migrated from Hong Kong to the UK) and it’s followed by the wonky drama of ‘pineapple eyes’ with its ascending scales, bouts of deceleration and tidal rushes of fuzzed sounds. A chill breeze blows across the summer sweetness of ‘back of my head’, ‘lonely udon’ demonstrates their dexterity at throwing in unexpected, but not jarring, chord progressions, and ‘pink lips on a blue face’ is a languid cruise on a viscous river with the bass guitar and vocals dancing tenderly around each other.
‘emails from suzanne’ marks the midpoint of the album with a propulsive beat, and what I have previously described as a thunderous assault from the depths of the underworld which feels like going for a ride in a car with no brakes during an earthquake. ‘yue liang’ and ‘ballet of your blood’ bring more shifting ground with the wooziness of chords which seem to meander in and out of traditional patterns with pliant and cloudlike vocals drifting above. Another previous single ‘dan dan bub’ (which “charts the murky territory of navigating our digital selves versus our real selves”) is like walking on a deep, plush carpet and then stepping on a piece of Lego. ‘(a mystery)’ is exactly that, as it could be the theme song to a daytime soap opera, ‘gor gor’ is a delicate song that explodes into something akin to operatic roadworks and the final track ‘bubble bee’ is seemingly a tender close to the album, before low rumbling menace washes in like storm clouds. The band will not let us go gently into that good night.
Dama Scout, who are drummer Daniel Grant, bassist Lucci Rossi and vocalist Eva Lui, control all aspects of their music and image, and write, record, mix and produce everything themselves, as well as creating their own artwork and videos. This may explain why their world feels hermetically sealed like a lush terrarium full of brightly coloured plants (some of which could poison you). The band mix alt-pop with lounge jazz from another dimension. They create rippling patterns and psychedelic warmth combined with the shiver of anxiety and the feeling you need to check for monsters under the bed before you turn off the light. It’s a wonky delight to spend time in their world and when Dama Scout beckon you to follow them be like Alice and run towards that rabbit hole.
gen wo lai is available to stream and as a download and coloured vinyl edition from Bandcamp.
Review by Paul F Cook