Hey Underwater Sunshine fans, it’s Charlie again. The act I’m here to tell you about this time is a little different from most of the groups playing the festival—in fact, they’re a little different from most groups, period. A relatively new act, D.Light & the Intergalactic Ear Orgy Orchestra is the brainchild of Delano Montgomery (the “D.Light” of the band’s name) and boasts Underwater alum Mikaela Davis as part of the aforementioned orchestra, as well as members other well-known Brooklyn based bands like August West, The Cutouts, and Salón. While a name like “Intergalactic Ear Orgy Orchestra” suggests that the group would have some kind of futuristic electro-pop sound, it doesn’t suggest what is possibly the most appealing aspect of the Intergalactic Ear Orgy Orchestra’s sound: underlying all of the futuristic, synth-heavy music is an intimate retro element that roots you in the familiar sound of artists like Bowie and the Talking Heads while pushing you to accept the outrageous.
D.Light’s first album, Massive Commercial Success! (which that insistent exclamation point that highlights the dark humor of trying to make a mark in the music world), is as bold as the title suggests. When I said the the sound is synth-heavy, I didn’t just mean that there’s a synthesizer involved in the music: all of the bands that have contributed to D.Light, whether with members of the “Orchestra” or as influences on their sound, are synthesized in this 20 minute album. Tracks lik “Pressure Spot,” the single from the album, show the influence of the Grateful Dead-inspired August West while establishing a unique sound for D.Light:
Setting aside the arrestingly flamboyant narrative of the video itself, we find ourselves torn between the past and the future: the vocals are guttural, almost prehistoric, and call up something primeval in us. The video is appropriately set in the 1970’s, and that’s evident in the sound as well—D.Light’s voice is, at its more tranquil moments, caught somewhere between the energy of Michael Jackson and the timbre of David Bowie. The futuristic elements hardly need to be mentioned: aside from the video, which has an element of self-aware pastiche as it approaches mid-70’s sci-fi, the song itself has an air of compulsive movement that is usually found in contemporary pop and indie, like Janelle Monáe and Kishi Bashi. In fact, if you compare Janelle Monae’s extended video for Dirty Computer to this music video, you’ll see that D.Light & the Intergalactic Ear Orgy Orchestra have tapped into the same cultural pulse that she has, and, much like Dirty Computer, see something dystopian, self-consuming, and self-referential in our current cultural situation.
What makes D.Light distinct from all of these acts I’ve mentioned is that they want to make you move before they make you think. I’m not saying that the groups I’ve mentioned don’t make you dance: on the contrary, every act I’ve mentioned has earned a place in music history for its ability to move your feet. But I’m standing here, writing this article, and even thinking about a track like “Love Works,” with its rhythm that builds like brickwork into a delicate palace of sound and uncomplicated but heartfelt lyrics (“I wanna try, but you don’t know how love works”), makes my foot start to tap.
When the guitar comes in with its sultry riffs under the repeated “you don’t know how love works” around the two minute mark, I’m done for—and you will be too. I would argue that that’s what all of D.Light’s self-aware, high-energy album is aimed toward: not sending their listeners on a philosophical disquisition on cyclical trends in music, or the current cultural/political situation; not analyzing the way that the music industry has ballooned with the rise of the internet to the point that it’s nearly impossible to make a name for yourself on your own; not even writing complex, analytical songs.While they do all of those things and more, D.Light & the Intergalactic Ear Orgy Orchestra has, most importantly, done exactly what their name implies they set out to do: fill you up with sound, take you out of this world, and above all, set a tingle in your spine that shakes you with the beat. When you hear them in November, don’t be afraid to dance: I sure will be.