The most apt description of Daniel Smith’s sojourn as a musician would be written in iambic pentameter, because this sojourn is as immemorial as The Pilgrim’s Progress, or Paradise Regained, the son raised in a proper spiritual and musical household, who casts it all off, goes out and listens to a bunch of Syd Barrett and Don Van Vliet and similarly admirable material, is recast in the image of this highly original music, and who then returns to the fold, like in the parables. Nearer to the home fires, he is repurposed and begins to hear the profundity in the familial gospel sound, whereupon he conceives of this band, to be made up of his siblings and friends, which will reproduce this very sound of family, and his band records several albums of truly unique contemporary music, more punk than punk, more psychedelic than psychedelia, and more ecstatic and divinely inspired than a lot of the slick gospel music; he thus falls somewhere between the cracks, like a lot of truly revolutionary American composers, like Charles Ives, like Moondog, likeHarry Partch, like Meredith Monk, like Sun Ra. From this singular perch, Smithcomposes some of the most original music of the nineties and oughts, with his siblings by his side, often wearing inventive homemade costumes spun from the metaphors of theDaniel Smith cosmogony.
As with the early Danielson records, the verses here are often chromatic, and the rhythms are often exceedingly slippery, and there are modulations. If you didn’t know better, you might even say the Danielson songs are a bit progressive, with canny and exceedingly sophisticated arrangements, but just when they appear to be musically demanding (though entirely in reach for a Smith family ensemble that has come to be able to play anything), the songs give way to big beautiful hooks (often in the choruses), repetitions that are often sung by massive ensembles of Smiths, sometimes in counterpoint, antiphons of Smiths, and with the ecstatic and prophetic quality that such hooks should entail, even as Smith’s lyrics have become more allusive and less patently gospel-oriented, with the result that they are even more powerful, emblematic, and persuasive.
Like in ecstatic religious poetry of another time, the new Danielson songs on Snap Outtavit, tackle the spiritual struggles of the everyday— growing older, having kids, momentarily losing hope, for which the route to salvation is music itself, the playing, the singing, the writing of music, and the listening to it as well. Daniel Smith invites you and yours onto the sojourn with him.