Not every album opens with the reading of a Biblical verse but, then again, not every album is made by someone as unconventional and inscrutable as The Late David Turpin. This, after all, is a man who claims to have died “for approximately twenty-eight seconds” and risen again. His latest release, ‘We Belong Dead’, therefore comes to us from the afterlife – unlike the two previous albums he has (had?) under his old, own name – and will, he believes, kickstart “a vital posthumous career”. Yes, it would seem that The Late David Turpin is no ordinary soul.
Unsurprisingly, then, this is no ordinary album. Recorded over three years, ‘We Belong Dead’ is a darkly atmospheric, esoteric exploration of love, loss and transformations. Rich, often eerie soundscapes envelop layers of lush strings and choral arrangements, while Turpin’s whispering vocals give a sense of the supernatural. Somewhat unsettling images of forests, winter beasts, hunters and death, conjured up through the heavily thematic lyrics, only add to the mystery. The whole record feels like it’s been caught in a ghostly fairytale, an experiment for both the listener and the man who made it.
A disconcerting energy seeps through the tracks, but this is presumably Turpin’s intention. The mellow sound of Fur, for example, finds itself at odds with its unusually macabre lyrics, Howl‘s mournful whines and ominous strings leave you on edge, and Deer Fable, which sees Turpin joined by Cathy Davey and Hunter-Gatherer, is anchored by its bleak, stark uneasiness. Even tracks such as funk-inspired The Hotel and the more lavish Garland exude otherworldly qualities which refuse to let up on the strangeness altogether.
This doesn’t always make for the most comfortable of experiences, but the wealth of Turpin’s eclectic influences sometimes glow with warmth. Single A Warning To The Curious, dreamy and melodious, boasts some gorgeous string arrangements, The Ballad of Essential Difference and Bear of a Star are sweet, gentle love songs, while Like Bird and Beast – featuring Davey and, yes, a bleating donkey – feels like a charming, whimsical lullaby. Cloud’s “Little April Shower” moment and Human Hair/Prelude to“The Man I Love”, ending on a lovestruck paean to Prince Charming, even add some Disney-esque magic.
While it is refreshing to stumble across something as original and intriguing as ‘We Belong Dead’, it can be heavy-going. With a total of seventeen tracks, interest in his fantastical, surreal imagination does begin to wane, and it’s slightly relieving to escape back to the real world at the end of it. The precision and detail at which it’s been executed, however, and the host of guests that Turpin was able to welcome on-board speak of the talent and dedication which have gone into creating this album. It’s a very interesting rather than straight-out enjoyable record, but the inevitable inspiration that comes from the other side could bring The Late David Turpin’s career prophecies to life.