Recently responsible for introducing Miguel to a whole new pop audience, Mariah Carey has also unknowingly played a part in the careers of two other talents dealing in melancholic R&B. Indeed, two years before Swiss DJ Cyril Hahn’s eerily slowed-down take on Carey’s 2008 hit “Touch My Body” became a YouTube hit, Deptford Goth landed a record deal with London label Merok after they discovered his “Fantasy”-sampling track, “Love Real Fantasy,” on MySpace.
Neither a goth, nor a native of Deptford – although he was working as a teaching assistant in the borough at the time he got signed – Daniel Woolhouse has since proved that there’s more to his talents than riffing on mid-90s diva-pop, positioning himself as the UK’s answer to the likes of How To Dress Well and The Weeknd with debut album, Life After Defo.
Inspired by the Britpop of Oasis, Blur and Pulp as a teenager, Woolhouse began writing and recording songs on his sister’s Casio keyboard before graduating to a whole host of music software programs which enabled him to hone his resolutely gloomy and sorrowful R&B sound under his “nonsensical” Deptford Goth moniker.
Described as a meditation on “hope and despair, life and death and possession and loss,” his first full-length LP was produced by Rodaidh McDonald, the man who mixed The xx’s similarly solemn, critically-acclaimed debut. And although there are traces of the Mercury Prize winners’ reverb-laden sound amongst its eleven numbers, particularly on the disjointed trip-hop of “Particles,” Life After Defo is a little more experimental.
The opening title track begins with the kind of layered echoed voices that Enya has built her career on before seguing into an array of warm synths and playful percussion. “Feel Real” and “Deepest” both throw a nod to the slick gossamer R&B of the 80s, “Guts No Glory” recalls a more muted Vampire Weekend with its folksy melodies and plucked Afrobeat riffs, and there’s even a big immediate chorus on the otherwise hushed bass-pop of “Union.”
Deptford Goth may have been unfairly overlooked when it came to the “one-to-watch” lists at the beginning of the year. But you can pretty much bank on him appearing on several “album of the year” lists come the end.