Named after an amalgam of Nashville crooners Don and Stevie Ray, Pennsylvania truck driver-turned-troubadour Daughn Gibson twisted country music beyond all recognition with last year’s debut All Hell thanks to an array of warped loops, samples and distortion and a remarkable baritone which sat somewhere between a Vegas Elvis impersonator and the frontman of the Crash Test Dummies.
His second album, Me Moan, continues to bridge that rather wide gap between the country and western of the 60s and the experimental electronica of the 00s with similarly inventive and perplexing results.
Indeed, living up to its title, “Mad Ocean” is a bewildering combination of glitchy beats, ghostly pitch-shifted vocal hooks and wailing bagpipes. Everything from flickering morse code synths to sitars are thrown into the mix on the Joy Division-esque post-punk of “The Right Signs.” There are even flashes of dubstep amongst the chopped-up female vocal hooks and Wild West guitar twangs of the quietly menacing “You Don’t Fade.”
But Daughn Gibson’s post-modern cowboy routine perhaps best works on “The Pisgee Nest,” a hugely unsettling tale of a policeman’s daughter forced into prostitution by her boyfriend, which combines the nocturnal trip-hop of the mid-90s with the eerie Americana of a David Lynch soundtrack.
But Me Moan is equally compelling when it takes a turn for the more conventional, as on “All My Days Off,” a gorgeous stripped-back acoustic ballad which sounds like a long-lost Johnny Cash classic, and the Footloose-aping hillbilly country-rock of “Kissin’ On The Blacktop.”
“Won’t You Climb,” a syrupy string-laden slice of lounge pop far more suited to a cruise ship cabaret, and closer “Into The Sea,” a disappointingly anti-climactic attempt at honky tonk, proves Daughn Gibson’s melting pot of sounds doesn’t always gel. But on the whole, Me Moan’s unashamed absurdity is difficult to resist.