Murakami wrote ‘Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it’, a statement that remains the dinkum oil of literary quotes to this day. Devastation resulted from loss has filtered into some of the best art around us for decades, resultantly building us as people. David Balfe’s record, ‘For Those I Love‘ is no exception, cultivating this idea into a harrowing musical container, taking direct influence from the passing of Paul Curran, Balfe’s best friend and former band mate, who tragically lost his life to suicide in 2018.
From the shed at the back of his parents garden, Balfe wrote over 70 tracks. The 9 of which we hear on wax are drowned lyrical pallets of anger, sadness, loneliness and distress. Frigid electronic instrumentation backs; some of which sounds like a homage to illegal raves, others to the downtempo work of James Blake, all in all sounding as raw as it’s lyrical content. A sense of time and place is encapsulated through each track. Stories fly past about the robbery of youth and time’s escape from justice. Merging miniscule details, from minor vandalism to friendly encounters at warehouse raves, with entire tracks about fears of picking up the phone, alcoholism, and writers block, they speak for themselves as a cohesive whole.
When not about Cullan, this record remains just as acutely potent. ‘Birthday/The Pain‘ is a personal favourite. One that paints blue collared Dublin in arresting prose – in a way only James Joyce could rival – detailing the encounter of a stabbing on Balfe’s road, and his reaction to it when he was 6 years old. This track is a good reference point to Balfe’s loss of hope in humanity, and pricks ears from the first line. It’s so personal that it could be the transcript of a 3am phone call drowned in Redbreast. ‘Top Scheme‘ is another one of these moments. A political scream. A track that deals face to face with the little opportunity and poor housing that still forms a shadow over Ireland to this day. Something that reminded me of an interview one of our writers did with Damien Dempsey in our last issue, who had similar things to say.
Pitched samples seep in, from Boy George’s rendition of Everything I Own, to The Miracle’s The Tracks Of My Tears, they are always efficient at pulling the heartstrings. It’s as if Balfe is saying after speaking his words, that all he has left as a keepsake is music. That, and the voicemail recordings (not to be forgotten) that litter the project. They are enough to create the illusion that you as a listener knew Curran just as well as Balfe did, and upon this recognition I think It’d take a sociopath not to emphasize upon hearing this.
Key Tracks: I Have A Love, You Stayed/To Live, Top Scheme, The Myth/I Don’t, The Shape Of You, Birthday/The Pain