Daniel Gadd – As If In A Dream I Drifted At Sea
107 Recordings – 10 November 2017
Daniel Gadd was born in Cape Town, South Africa but is now based in London. He holds a degree in composition and also trained at the Berklee College of Music in Spain and has composed and scored for films. However, it was while playing in some basement bar in London that he was ‘discovered’ by Mal Smith and Chris Carr who run music promotions company. Impressed, they offered to help and discovered he’d actually already recorded a debut album, back in a small fishing village near Cape Town. Now, As If In A Dream I Drifted At Sea is to get its UK release.
Firmly in the late 60s folk troubadour vein and with a warm but yearningly wearied voice grained by lifetimes of experience it opens with the lovely, fingerpicked first single, Siri Linn, a wistful song of love and loss that, especially in his phrasing, firmly underlines Leonard Cohen as a key influence, indeed, this could well be his Suzanne.
The same holds true of the equally melancholic Some Time Ago (On A Cold Winter Night), another number that draws on images of winter and water, a spare folk song reminiscent perhaps of Scarbrough Fair in its tale of a man haunted by memories of a night with siren or selkie.
With guitar playing that echoes the title, Rolling On picks up that Simon & Garfunkel reference, reinforced with a familiar Simon motif of being lost and adrift, one which also informs The Trail I’m Tracking with its theme of never quite finding the things you’re searching for and always having to start again.
Another clear influence is early Dylan, most specifically on the five-minute Sleep Turns Her Face with its reflections of a lost love that lingers still, reinforced by those bursts of forlorn harmonica. It returns in even more mournful mood on Just Like The Road, a simply picked chord pattern as, another song of loss, broken dreams and leaving as he sings “ain’t it just like the road to teach you how to love, teach you how to cry, teach you how to say goodbye.”
The sound of the sea heard in the background, parting is at the heart of So Long Old Friend, a number that brings the album back to those Cohen notes, both musically and in the enigmatic, metaphorical lyrics as he ponders “if I’ve never been to the ocean, why do I dream of the waves?”
All too soon it closes with a final Dylan and Cohen flourish, and more harmonica, on Somedays Down A Highway, the lyrics about the impermanence of relationships and life, of looking back and moving on and being “stuck here spinning like the wheels on a train” suggesting a schooling in the blues.
It’s a hugely impressive debut that has been likened, in its open emotions and simplicity rather than its music, to the first Bon Iver album and it resonates so deeply because of those qualities. It seems certain to bring Gadd both acclaim and exposure and with it the possible temptation to make a fuller sounding second album. For now, he should resist such a move as there’s nothing he needs to fix.
Album Launch: Mon. 13 November, St. Pancras Old Church, London