React to it at your Leisure: A Review of Daniel Romano’s Modern Pressure

Words by James Shakeshaft
Art by Pearl Thompson
Photos courtesy of New West Records

In a world filled with fickle fads and a sometimes disposable popular culture, I find myself constantly seeking something that truly resonates with me. Which is why I was so elated to come across Canada’s Daniel Romano, one of our generations true creatives. A year back, I had the pleasure of meeting him at his show at York’s ‘Crescent’ WMC, located next to the infamous brutalist ODEON cinema. The show marked the release of ‘Mosey’, his controversially remarkable LP which saw a change in his sonic and sartorial departments. He moved away from the George Jones fuelled honky tonk narratives to powerful psychedelic tapestries, all the while maintaining his distinct vocal style. As well as this he swapped his nudie suit for a tracksuit. Now the fashionista has turned into the beatnik king of Greenwich Village, the Pride of Queens if you will, and continued to cement his unique sound with this new release. Seem as though we’re talking about Romano, this is all done knowingly and with great confidence, subtlety isn’t a word to associate with the man. With this been said, these decisions regarding image aren’t made out of vanity but as an extension of his personality.

When I first saw Daniel I didn’t know what to expect. Songs from the Serge Gainsbourg produced Jane Birkin LP, along with Francoise Hardy and France Gall filled the vacant dance floor- much to the disgust of the Americana purists, but to my enjoyment and surprise. It was clear already he’d undergone some kind of evolution, I wasn’t sure what it was but I knew I was going to like it. And sure enough, I did. But I’m here to talk about his latest release, one year on, his 7th solo record- ‘Modern Pressure’. Like Mosey this record echoes tones of Lee Hazelwood, Dylan and lyrically at times Leonard Cohen. Despite this, the album is in no way a relic and is still contemporary in every sense of the word. Its constant change in dynamic keeps you listening tentatively troughout the record, from the groove ridden ‘When I Learnt Your Name’- complete with a De Stijl influenced music video starring his partner and band member Kay Berkel, to the fragile, elegant words of ‘ROYA’ which, like a lot of Daniel’s songs, is complete with a cinematic delight, proving himself not only a musical and fashion figure, but a directing virtuoso also. One video in particular that stood out to me was for the title track – Modern Pressure – depicting a break up scene in an eatery that resembles elements of the RR Diner from Twin Peaks. Its content, in writing, may sound like an EastEnders script, but this  video was proof to me that when delivered sincerely, there’s no need to over complicate a story. I was reminded of something Scott Walker said about how he was inspired by British sitcoms and how he brought the stories into his music in songs like Mrs Murphy and Rosemary, though in a much more sinister, eloquent and artistic manner.

The LP was recorded in a minimalist cabin in far removed Finnäs, Sweden and was engineered by his long term collaborator Kenneth Meehan. Like his past releases, it has been put out by New West Records, who are rapidly becoming a tour de force of an independent label, homing artists such as The Deslondes as well as Kacy and Clayton.

Daniel is a reminder that there are no boundaries, you can change style, influence, even character at any point so long as it’s still you underneath. He has created a foundation from which he can reinvent himself entirely to fit where he sits creatively at any moment in time. Modern Pressure isn’t disposable, it’s a social document of these uncertain times.

The Modern Pressure tour will begin with a string of dates across the States, then shortly after you can catch him in the UK and Europe, where he’ll be playing shows including a night at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club  on November 12th.

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