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Danelle Dax: Dark Adapted Eye (1988)

While in L.A. this past summer (2019), I came across an article in a local magazine that was discussing the music of Danielle Dax and also featured a partial interview. I had heard her name before, but I had never investigated her music. I read the article over brunch and found myself smiling. I enjoyed the article and her attitude to music. She sounded interesting (and sufficiently obscure that I would probably enjoy being the only person in my circle of friends “in the know” haha!)

One thing that sticks out in my mind from the article was her response when asked about how her music was considered experimental, avant-guard and unusual. I remember smiling because she answered something to the effect that she was just creating music that she liked, and that she thought it was actually pretty commercial. I liked that.

I promised myself to check her out when I returned to Taiwan, maybe listen to some stuff on Spotify or whatever. Thinking nothing further of it, I finished the article and went about my day.

My day, as it turns out, included a trip to a used record store later that afternoon (Going Underground)… and what do you think I stumbled upon in the bins at the store? If you guessed an LP by Danielle Dax, you guessed correctly, LOL! For a whopping $5 (about $150nt, New Taiwan dollars), I picked up a near mint condition copy of her American debut album, a compilation called “Dark Adapted Eye“, which happened to be the album that was discussed in the magazine article.

Issued by Sire Records, the album was her first Major label release, and her first release in the United States. It was meant as an introduction to her music. As such, it contains all of her previously released singles (originally released in the UK on her own independent label, Awesome Records). It also contains 10 of the 11 songs from her third album “Inky Bloaters“. As such, it is an AMAZING introduction to this interesting and quirky artist.

Of course, since I was away on vacation, listening to the album would have to wait! Once I got back to Taiwan, though, I gave the record a thorough cleaning and dropped the needles, not knowing what to expect. (favourite track “Touch Piggy’s Eyes“).

To describe her music is a bit of a challenge. It is definitely guitar and keyboard pop, with a good dose of distortion, but it leans towards alternative end of the spectrum. It manages to be both Rock and Pop, yet sounds like neither. There is a bit of “surf guitar” feeling in some of her music, but with a poppier, more modern edge than anything you would expect to hear by, say, The Ventures or The Shadows. There is also a clean crisp sound to her funky bass and insistent drums, making it sound modern despite it being already 20 years old at time of this writing. Her lyrics are powerful, if unusual, and I was pleased to find that the album’s inner sleeve had all the lyrics.

I was sufficiently enamored of the album that I went on line to see what else she had done.

Disappointingly, she only ever made one other major label album, her fourth album overall, entitled “Blast the Human Flower” (Sire, 1990). A few years after that album, She released a 4-track EP in 1995 called “Timber Tongue” which I decided against buying when I sampled the tracks and discovered they are all mostly ambient soundscapes (not my cup of tea). That same year also saw the release of a career-spanning CD-only compilation called “Non-Reaction: The Thwarted Pop Career of Danielle Dax“. The title itself should give you an idea of what to expect from her sense of humour.

Since returning to Taiwan, I have sought out and acquired her first two LPs (“Pop-Eyes” and “Jesus Egg That Wept“) which I managed to get as a buy-1-get-1 free deal on eBay. They’re interesting, but the tracks on the “Dark Adaptive Eye” LP that I found in L.A. really covered all the best bits. The tracks that hadn’t been included on “Dark Adaptive Eye” mostly lean more towards non-music and experimental stuff and so, owning “Dark Adaptive Eye” makes these two earlier albums superfluous in my opinion. I decided against trying to source myself a copy of “Inky Bloaters” because, as I said, 10 of its 11 tracks are already included on “Dark Adaptive Eye“. Find a copy of “Dark Adaptive Eye” and you can safely skip the first three albums unless you’re a completest.

Now spinning at my house, her final album of original material, “Blast the Human Flower“… so, as you can see I sought out more music from Danielle Dax after hearing the album I bought in L.A.!

To be honest, however, “Blast the Human Flower” is good, but not as strong as “Dark Adaptive Eye“, for the obvious reason that that “Dark Adaptive Eye” is a compilation that includes all her early singles, but it is still a nice collection of tracks!

Sadly, only the album “Blast the Human Flower” is available on Spotify as of this writing, so I created a very small sampler for you with the 5 best songs off that album. Check it out.  She’s is an interesting discovery! Enjoy!

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