Daniel Thomas Freeman: The Beauty Of Doubting Yourself
The mere fact that Daniel Thomas Freeman is a founding and current member of Rameses III is all the assurance one needs to know that The Beauty Of Doubting Yourself will reward one's attention many times over. This highly personalized recording was composed over a six-year period that saw Freeman render in sonic form his plunge into depression followed by a slow but ultimately successful recovery. The material is carefully sequenced to mirror that trajectory, and its seven indexed tracks are presented in a somewhat symphony-like three-movement form. The album deftly documents Freeman's talent as a sound-sculptor who's able to take a multitude of sounds—instruments, samples, and otherwise—and arrange them into compelling soundscapes of multi-hued character.
Aptly titled, the opening piece “Dark House Walk” feels shrouded in gloom as it makes its way through pitch-black passageways that are so dark objects register as little more than phantom traces. An oppressive, even claustrophobic mood sets in as the waves of diseased strings and bell strikes (derived from a 2004 field recording of Westminster Cathedral bells) flood the cavernous space. If the material is supposed to distill the state of deep depression into musical form, it succeeds more than a little convincingly. The twenty-five-minute “Staring into Black Water” moves us away from the city and towards the waterfront, as is made clear when beachside sounds that Freeman captured in Padstow, Cornwall in 2005 appear alongside the foggy thrum of ripples and swirls. The locale might be different, but a sense of disorientation and even dementia is suggested by the sickly voices and crackling smears that continually roll in. A groggy miasma of scrapes and shufflings accumulates, their low-pitched convulsions offset by an occasional bright tinkling and the sudden emergence of wailing voices.
The bright percussive fluttering that dominates “The Beauty of Doubting Yourself” hints that recovery may not be far off. Certainly the track, though brief at five minutes, exudes a life-force that's far different from the despair of the album's opening tracks. The upward ascent continues on into “The Might of Angels” when a swarm of sawing violins soars o'er top a droning, horn-like mass, even if the subsequent “The Devil Would Steal Your Joy,” in having its bold dulcimer patterns pulled downwards by possessed voice fragments, hints that a setback of sorts has occurred and the black dog of depression has again gained the upper hand.The final movement opens with “Elegy and Rapture (for Margaret),” which, dedicated to Freeman's late mother, transmutes keening violin patterns into ten supplicating minutes of inner hope, heartfelt mourning, and resolution. “Staring into the Light” is, naturally, the mirror image of “Staring into Black Water,” not only in title but in mood. In contrast to the earlier piece, the closing one's glimmering tones and soft vocal exhalations sigh peacefully, as if trouble has been resolved and pain washed away. The earlier Westminster Cathedral bells re-emerge to help bestow a formal impression of unity upon the recording, and Rhodes sprinkles bring the recording to a sparkling close. Though on the one hand the end seems to return us from whence we came, it also shows that a dramatically long distance has been traveled.