Ninth album from North Carolina’s Dave Desmelik who Blabber’n’Smoke last reviewed here describing Deep Down The Devotion as a “song cycle of life and death and the little that matters in between.” Desmelik followed that one with an album of 16 instrumentals on Instrumental Swim and on We Don’t Want A Dying Flame he offers a mixture of instrumentals and self penned songs that delve deeper into the existential angst he conjured up so well on Deep Down. Again he plays the majority of the instruments himself (with some assistance from Josh Gibbs who plays lap steel guitar on five numbers and Andy Gibbon, bass guitar on four) and while there’s a homespun feel to the album the sound is excellent, at times recalling, as we said last time, the sparser moments of Richmond Fontaine.
The album opens with the five minute instrumental, Hyper Fatigue which sounds as if The Penguin Cafe Orchestra were backing John Fahey with nimble guitar picking and wheezy keyboard to the fore. The tune meanders but never falters, groping its way through some ambient electric guitar grumblings and ken speckle percussion. At its end we stumble into the stark landscape of Destruction, a dark acoustic song menaced by angry fuzzed fretwork with Desmelik describing a dystopian nightmare, his voice resigned and weary. Over its six and a half minutes the song grips the listener and while there are echoes of Eef Bazerley’s work here it’s a miniature masterpiece. L-I-F-E offers a ray of light with its audio verite recording of children at play over some fine acoustic guitar picking while the following No Words To Describe pays tribute to the mother child bond. Red Collar, Statue, Two Gifts and Sand Toe are handsome instrumental interludes dotted throughout the album, they’re miniatures compared to the opening tune and lighter in mood with Desmelik’s guitar compelling but the meat is in the songs here. We’re Older Now (Ode To OBJ) harks back to a band Desmelik played in (Onus B. Johnson if you need to know) and again Eef Barzeley of Clem Snide comes to mind as the song falters, in danger of becoming a waltz time country piece but teetering and never falling. It’s a wonderful ramshackle, wrecked and honest ramble through some memories and a very fine song indeed. Josh Gibbs’ lap steel enlivens On The Clock as Desmelik delivers a gnomic self help guide which buzzes and burns with a sweet grace while Stretch continues in this vein, both musically and lyrically as Desmelik describes life as a set of emotional and physical callisthenics. The last song Do You Even Know, another swooningly gorgeous melange of guitars, belies its sonic attractiveness as Desmelik subverts the usual singer songwriter confessional memoire with a series of vignettes before asking the titular question begging the listener to wonder. The album closes with another instrumental, reeB aniloraC (read it backwards) that rumbles and rambles.
We Don’t Want A Dying Flame is an idiosyncratic album. Desmelik has a somewhat unique talent that reveals itself here on close repeated listens although some of the songs are immediately arresting. The instrumental byways scattered throughout might dilute the impact of the album somewhat but there’s no question that he’s a singular voice worth hearing.