Hidden - Dean Blunt Live - By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret

Hidden — Dean Blunt Live

Deep in the shadows, Dean Blunt delivers in concert.

Author: on September 13, 2013
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Strange venue, the 100 Club. Located on Oxford Street, near Tottenham Court Road, it hides beneath the busiest parts of London’s bustle. A small sign points to a corridor with a lift and stairs, leading down into a small space you might expect to be reserved for swankier business. Instead, the tables and floor are populated by those touched or intrigued by the music of former-Hype Williams member Dean Blunt. No support is announced, though a young male takes to the stage, and begins to sing after struggling to tame the microphone’s rebellious cable. His unpolished croons repel the ambient chatter filling the club, playing three songs – one of which is a Maxwell cover and another Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You”. Not necessarily what the audience may have expected, though they know to resist expecting anything when Dean Blunt is involved in the proceedings. The general consensus assumes irony is playing a part in the support set, though no noses are upturned and everyone is happy to enjoy things for what they are, before lights dim once again and 90’s RnB occupies the speakers.

Dean hidden from the spotlight.

Dean hidden from the spotlight.

Everything about Blunt’s set is translucent – the moment it begins and then ends is unclear and the small matter of everything that happens in between bamboozles as much as it entertains. Face shielded by his signature Nike baseball cap, Blunt walks a co-conspirator in front of his crowd, before leaving the man to stand there. After several minutes of repetitive field recordings that sound like the rattling of shopping trolleys, one light pierces the thick smoke to reveal the man, who appears to be a bodyguard or security of sorts. Eventually, music from The Redeemer begins to play and Blunt seems ready. For the first of many times, Blunt approaches the mic, only to smile, shake his head and walk away again before returning to sing. He spends much of the show pacing, back and forth, staying away from the spotlight which focuses on his guard more than himself. Joined by two other musicians, Blunt spends the majority of his set avoiding the forefront, leaning against walls, crouching in the corners, turning his back to witnesses of this engrossing anomaly – especially when it’s the others that are playing. On the occasions he does show his face, he holds the briefest of gazes until the retreat. His singing is honest, wistful and half-mumbled, as it comes across on The Redeemer, often bumping the stand with his lips. Most moments between vocals are filled by the record, with a trumpeter plays over some parts. Support vocals come from a guest on the LP, Joanne Robertson, who also maintains an introspective – but more stationary – stage presence, as well as playing infrequent movements on the electric guitar.

Joanne Robertson.

Joanne Robertson.

When musicians propel an air of mysteriousness around their selves, it can often be met with scepticism as it is, in fairness, a tired trope. Still, it seems to have worked as far as Dean Blunt’s career is concerned, however his live mannerisms suggest he’s hiding from himself as much as he hides himself from others. The Redeemer may just be his most brutally open and vulnerable record, and if there is truth to the unshielded personality on there, his reluctance to share it while looking others in the eye is something that can be sympathised with. He seems to prefer to put others in front of him; alas all of this might just be feeding into the mythic, enigmatic Dean Blunt story – even when he hides behind his band, all eyes continue to follow him.

It seems that Dean Blunt fans share knowledge and principles as they follow his work, yet there exists another membrane of esotericism between the artist and his supporters. Blunt is far from hesitant when it comes to risking alienating others; lights switch off and music winds down. Then: Bass throbs and drones, descending league upon league below submerged frequencies, while whirring white noise rises above, against the relentless flashing of a strobe light that dissipates the smog. Blunt travels in stop-motion to his hidden haven and Robertson grimaces, blocking her ears with fingers, while the crowd attempts to save what’s left of their senses. Some cheer and others jeer, with exclamations such as, “Is this a fucking joke?” accompanied by applause and whistling. One song later and Blunt has guided his guard and trumpeter off-stage on the sly, while Robertson reveals the cause for her uncomfortable shifting and nervous palm-wiping all evening – her solo of riffs and whirring winds down the show, as her spot becomes the new centre of the stage. As she places her guitar back down, gathers her coat and departs, the 100 Club looks around at itself, bemused, bewildered and bedazzled. The club’s fire alarm rings out and attendees dozily evacuate. As they file out, it’s clear that although no one is sure what just took place, all will certainly remember it.

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