The Beauty of Doubting Yourself. What a title that is. I mean, in my experience of life and art the people who are actually genuinely gifted, the ones who have the ability to create mind blowingly brilliant work, suffer from huge bouts of self doubt. Their work, to the normal person, seems incredible but to them seems average, it simply cannot be good enough. The people I know who are arrogant, over confident in their own abilities, tend to be the ones who produce things that disappoint. A good first record/book etc, lots of back slapping, and before you know it ego has replaced doubt and averageness, potential greatness. It happens more than I care to think about. True brilliance tends to come hand in hand with self doubt. And in that alone I see some real beauty in doubting yourself.
Obviously, that’s not necessarily where the word ‘doubt’ fits with this record. In his solo debut outing, Daniel Thomas Freeman documents beautifully his battles with, and recovery from, depression. Recorded over six years the album is split into three distinct sections. The first section focuses on the darkest moments of Freeman’s depressed state – beautifully highlighted in the 25 minute epic ‘Staring into Black Water’. There is a beautiful moment at the end of this track where the darkness lifts and we are left with the sound of only waves. It’s a poignant and evocative mood shift highlighting the transition from real darkness and despair to a conscious battle for light. It feels like the moment that the light is let in, if only slightly, and the second section is packed with the struggle to overcome.
This mood shift suddenly comes clattering down with the aptly titled ‘The Devil Would Steal Your Joy’, a clear indication of the constant battle that those who suffer from depression face. Moments of real light can disappear in an instant. Again, the battle to overcome is beautifully presented and as ‘Elegy and Rapture’ begins you know that there is another shift in mood and tone on the horizon. Violins layered and looped creating a feeling that something brighter is on the horizon. And in closing track ‘Staring into the Light’ Freeman completes his deeply introspective journey from the darkness to a calmer more peaceful place.
What is quite incredible about this record is the skill with which the story is told. It’s a journey. Without a doubt. And in many ways it’s a very personal and intense one. Yet, like all good story tellers, Freeman manages to captivate his audience and make them feel like part of the experience. Using only sound, that in itself is an incredible feat. Make no mistake, this is a masterpiece in conveying emotion and when all is said and done you really do feel like you have been on an important journey both musically and emotionally.
I sat and listened to this record on the morning of Christmas eve at 5am with a pair of good big headphones. I don’t think I could have listened to it for the first time in a more appropriate way. I was completely spell bound by what I heard.
You can check out Daniel Thomas Freeman here. Enjoy.