Danger Ken! released their 10 track debut album, Up is Down, on May 7th. Aside from a few guest appearances on certain tracks, drums, keys, guitar, bass and vocals are a product of the album’s creator. A multi-talented instrumentalist and composer local to New York, it appears Dan Gerken’s musical alias, a play on his own name, is just as clever and catchy as his new music.
The opening song, Lagoon (Intro), creates an air of mystery as we unravel what’s to come. Free of lyrics, the song invites the listener to relish in the evolving peaceful synthesizers in the background. By contrast, the intro is followed by Jubilate which pushes back our preconceived notions about the album as a whole. Expanding instrumentation, Jubilate, accompanied by guest Andrew Chamberlaine (Mister F, Timbre Coup) brings a punchy retro-sounding electric guitar and pumping drums to get you moving.
Once lyrics emerge in the third track of the album, Astral Traveler, accompanied by guest instrumentalist Dave Berger (Groovestick), its evident no track is alike on this album that keeps you on your toes, switching from tracelike to groovy all in a matter of seconds. Through the diverse discography, there are staples to the album the listener can count on: catchy electric guitar lines, experimental ethereal synthesizer backgrounds, and unique layered vocals.
The psychedelic cover embodies the range of emotions the lister is drawn to feel while listening to this ever-changing musical soundscape. My ears were constantly attuned to the minute changes in instrumentation. While seemingly minimalistic standing on their own, individual loops placed over top one another allowed for a repetitive yet diverse music range across songs.
My personal favorite track, Time to Go, had notes parallel to 80s synthesizer and electric guitar parts with contrasting rock-like vocals bringing a 90s element. The cross-generational track’s beautiful smooth evolution of instrumentation, experimenting with both tempo and timbre, was both catchy and peaceful. The perfect song for a cross-country solo road trip or backyard concert, I was completely entranced, particularly by the thread of electric guitar that wove in and out of the piece.
A self proclaimed “byproduct of being home a lot the last year and having the studio here for the first time in my life,” Gerken’s vocals are passionate and personal, inviting experimental rock into an intimate atmosphere. I highly recommend giving it a listen, and feel confident in saying between the diverse genre shifts within the album, there is bound to be a favorite for everyone.