Dan James Griffin – 4AM (Review)

Knowing Dan personally as we’re friends and study HND music at Kidderminster College, I may be a little bit biased with what I say… but I’m not just saying this… if you haven’t heard Dan’s music, you haven’t lived. Dan James Griffin is an extended range guitarist (8 strings!) who composes music in a complex manner. “4am” is his new album released on October 19th. The best thing about Dan and his music is he doesn’t stick to one influence. He’s inspired by different genres and artists around. His last album “Sentimentality” is definitely more heavier, but “4am” is stunningly dreamy.

Kicking off the album is “Butterfly.” It’s original, groovy and odd. I completely see why Dan named it “Butterfly” because of how the guitar is played. It’s feels like a butterfly has just awoken from it’s cocoon and has so much energy for it’s life to begin… again. Butterfly is progressive but not in the way of the feel, it’s more progressive along the lines of the rhythm. Dan uses a “thumbing” technique while playing to create his “sound” for the song.  Below is a link to a guitar play through that Dan recently uploaded.

Musicians know the struggle of having to stay awake to finish writing what you hope is a masterpiece at night. “4am” is mellow and mystical, it captures the essence of late night writing down to a tee. The guitar phrases and tones that Dan gets in this song are truly gorgeous. Even the guitar is playing the harmony line too. Genius. Dan has commented on the release of his album that it was “created late at night in various locations, absorbing inspiration from the surroundings.” 

“Martian Lounge” is short and sweet. It takes you to what feels like another galaxy, which I think that’s what was intended to do. It’s definitely a personal favourite of mine, because its showing Dan’s skills and abilities. It’s not only myself that thinks this, but many people who know Dan’s music think it too… Dan would be absolutely perfect for writing film music or music to a moving image. I could picture watching Interstellar, Planet Earth or even something like Stranger Things and hear Dan’s music in the background playing softly. I can picture Dan’s music videos being psychedelic and dark.

The next song on “4am” is “Forest Fly.” It’s funky and drenched in what feels like Neo Soul/Math Rock to me. With the drums basically doing whatever sounds right to create this offbeat sound, it makes Forest Fly sound very much like “Hiatus Kaiyote.” The song seems somewhat lost, maybe a Forest Fly is flying around getting confused with everything around it. It works really well and this would definitely be one of Dan’s songs that I would love to hear with a band.

“Solace” features Ataciara (Clark Sumner) who is a West Midlands producer. The repetitive notes in this song, coming from the samples and also Dan’s guitar, is definitely the key to creating this lovely song. It starts simple and then gradually builds into what sounds like weird noises drowned in reverb. Solace actually means comfort in a time of sadness and the repetition mirrors to me in a way, reassurance and even when “times may be hard, things will get better.” I’m really interested to find out what Dan’s influences and what little stories he has behind each of the tracks on the album.

Next up, we have another short track that’s ambient and floaty. “Low Tide” is the second short piece of music on the album and it fits perfectly. In a way, Dan’s music is transcending because it takes you to another place. You can’t really put a “genre” to Dan’s music, purely because there’s so many elements in his work. You’ve got Metal, Jazz, Electronica, Hip Hop, Prog, Math Rock… he definitely has his own sound, which is very rare to get in today’s music industry.

Having heard “High Tide” performed live, this composition is not only groovy but it shows Dan’s abilities and skills. Like any of his songs, it shows that he’s not only a fast player, but he feels every single note he plays. Favourite part of the song is definitely  is the low end bass, its filthy and fresh. I’ve said in previous reviews that having a good song title really captures the audience and having “High Tide” next to “Low Tide” is really makes the audience think… “Is this song going to be the opposite to the last one?” … and it is, it’s the perfect answer to Low Tide.

White Noize” features Tomwynne (Tom Wynne Jones) & Earmuffs. It’s hip hop deliciousness and very subtle in a way that it’s not too much. We get to 1.56 in the song where it goes into a section where it sounds like the guitar has been pushed right to the front of the mix, which is different and surprising. It’s quite a short song, not a personal favourite of mine on the album and I think it’s a little bit repetitive, but still good.

Coming towards the last few songs of the album, we have “First Blush” next, which is actually the only song on this album that has lyrics/vocals. First Blush features Theone Dawes (who studies at Kidderminster College too) and Kill Miami. It’s a beautiful soulful love song that is longing for somebodies touch and wanting to start over with them. Theone sings very low to begin with but then when the verse is repeated later in the song, she sings it in a higher octave which makes it have a completely different sound to it, definitely more meaningful. The song is catchy and it’s the one song that I’ve had in my head for weeks! Cannot stop singing it!

“Reminisce” is fierce but at the same time pretty. As Dan is a 8 string guitarist, it makes his songs slightly more unusual to a normal 6 string guitarist, well, because he has more notes. Who needs a bass player when Dan can just do it himself?! It’s electronic and sexy.

To end the album we have “Another Dawn” which starts off quite quiet and lo fi. With a 2 second silence, the song hits back in but fully loud. It’s sassy and powerful. I really admire Dan for writing this album and getting inspiration from things around him. It’s complex and Dan’s music really does confuse me, but in a good way. The scales that he uses are tremendous and he is definitely one to watch out for.

Score – 9/10

Favourite Tracks – Butterfly, 4am, Martian Lounge, Forest Fly, High Tide, First Blush

Artwork by Daniel McBride
Mixed by Dan James Griffin
Mastered by Joe Barlow

Dan’s Sites

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/danjamesgriffincomposer/
Bandcamp – https://danjamesgriffincomposer.bandcamp.com/
Apple Music – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/4am/1288685053

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