Pat Corely has written a fantastic review of Duke Special's July 3, 2015 performance at Glastonbury. Check it out on his blog, Visions of Pat.
Two Views from the German Press
The second magazine is more recognizable - Stern, which is a journal of some heft, in contrast to Foerdefluesterer, as it often features in-depth journalism on politics, culture, and society.
Foerdefluesterer Review for Look Out Machines!
A Rough Translation of Foerdefluesterer
The first paragraph describes the album Songs From the Deep Forest. "They had just the right measure of everything," the author says, and were "wonderfully arranged." The song "Last Night I Nearly Died" is especially emphasized.
Starting at the 2nd paragraph, we read: "There were opportunities after this album, but he never could achieve the same heights. To be sure, there are songs that sound like this small masterpiece, even though they don't soar quite like they did nine years ago. But it seems that Peter Wilson would take a journey and write gripping songs again."
"The opener, "Wingman" points to this: Orchestral sound and Wilson's vocals are fragile yet swell powerfully. For that reason the arrangements make you feel like you're channeled through a stream of ever-changing feelings. Unfortunately, the next song, "Elephant Graveyard" seems to be a bit on a search for a melody.
"On the other hand, there are songs like "Step to the Magical," or "Son of the Left Hand" which are quite incidental, yet still impressive. "Domino" also has a grandness to it like the typical melancholic Duke Special charm. Look Out Machines! is the best album since 2006, but is missing the delicacy that one so loved."
Take out the nostalgic first paragraph, and the very last sentence of the review, which (again) reminds us how grand was Songs From the Deep Forest, and the author writes only 157 words used to critique a full length album. So there's very little information here. There's repetitive assertion that Peter's work after Deep Forest failed to appeal because they lacked some magical quality.
But how seriously can one take someone who doesn't have time to write 300 words? If the author took as long to listen to Duke Special's work as he did writing the article, he doesn't have much to go by except some cliches.
To be fair, an artist's early work sometimes looms large over his more recent material. Why? Some say an the many dramatic experiences an artist has when young, are expressed in a big creative burst early in their career. Duke Special's Adventures in Gramophone (2005), for example, was comprised of number of songs that had been previously recorded on Lucky Me (2002) and My Villain Heart (2004) and played live for a few years. Wilson did have a backlog of material, especially in those early years, which made for some commercially appealing recordings.
But to say that nothing has approached music released nine years ago is a bit much. Moreover, applying such a simplistic standard to judge an artist whose work spans almost 15 years seems a bit disingenuous, if not lazy. But that's my opinion!
He called his look "Hobo Chic": long dreadlocks, painted eyes, and a barock seeming gear. Peter Wilson, alias Duke Special, is also musically rather extravagant. His new album is no exception.
"Look Out Machines!" (Strange Records/Indigo) continues this series of wonderfully playful highly-poetic, and also endearingly crazy records and projects. The Northern Irish singer devoted almost two years to this one. The songs sound like a cross between Rufus Wainwright, Ed Harcourt, The Dresden Dolls and The Divine Comedy.
Somewhat more muscularly produced than usual (above all the bass-heavy "In a Dive," and forcefully pressing "Son of the Left Hand" are extraordinary) "Look Out Machines!" remains all the same in the tradition of the Duke Special orchestral albums such as "Songs from the Deep Forest," (2006), and "O Pioneer" (2012). The disc is crowned with two of the most sublime ballads in Wilson's rich career of sublime ballads; Tweed Coats, and Statues are beautiful enough to make one cry.
"Like in so many of my songs, there's a mixture of sorrow and hope," says Wilson about the songs to online magazine "Clash." That's what the 44-year-old looks for in his constant kindred friends [?] - his longtime producer, Phil Wilkinson, Iain Archer (ex-Snow Patrol), songwriter-friend Boo Hewerdine (The Bible), and Gary Clark (Danny Wilson).
Whoever first gets a taste for Duke Special from “Look Out Machines,” it is highly recommended that they check out perhaps his most ambitious project. His now five-year-old triple album project: a scoring of Brecht's "Mother Courage" for the National Theatre in London; the last five songs composed by Kurt Weill for a musical based on Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn"; and a dozen songs inspired by silent films from the 1920s. Twenty-nine folk-pop jewels that run almost 90 minutes in a lovingly put together masterpiece box [?] by the man from Belfast.
Moreover, Stern makes some of the same points I did in my February Preview of Look Out Machines!
Certainly we agree on the masterful beauty of Tweed Coats and Statues. I would also throw Stepping Stones in there as examples of some of Wilson's best songs...