A mere 20-months after Dorsal Fins debut Mind Renovation, the Melbourne outfit return with the fun, pop-infused Digital Zodiac. Although their debut provided a well-rounded platform, Digital Zodiac is undoubtedly more developed than its predecessor.
Falling from 15 in 2014, to 10 on their last record, and now nine members on Digital Zodiac, it feels like Dorsal Fins have finally struck the perfect balance. Their latest effort is laid back and cohesive – a great feat for a 9-piece band. For a band of this size, it would be all too easy to lose control, but Digital Zodiac is composed and performed in all the right ways. Every piece of instrumentation feels expertly considered and put-together.
The record begins with the toe-tappingly delightful ‘Romeo’. At just over the two-minute mark, it’s a perfect introduction for the fun that is soon to come. Ella Thompson’s vocals float easily over the driving drums and keys. ‘Sedated‘ follows perfectly by having the same fun feel, but with more calming synth elements. Although calmer than ‘Romeo’, pleasant elements of excitement are sprinkled throughout with the use of sax and bongo.
‘Roll Back The Years’ opens pleasantly with a Beatles-esque harmony before adding the groove with jazzy drums and bassline, and eventually more hints of rich woodwind trimmings, courtesy of some sax. The track truly lives up to its name, as it feels like you’re taking a journey back to the past in a mixture of Height Ashbury psych and even further back to New Orleans Jazz. Dorsal Fins manage to make these classic sounds into their own with the addition of wobbly synths and Jarrad Brown’s distinctive vocals. The track features some more subtle bongos just beneath the surface, much like the rest of the record. It’s such a distinctive instrument but is used in such a way that it sounds flawless – as if this is how all music should sound.
We’re given this treatment again on the enthusiastic ‘High Low’. Thompson’s vocals once again shine appropriately on the record as she hurriedly chants “I wanna be high I wanna low.” Dorsal Fins continue to bring toe-tapping fun with more bongos and alternating channels of scuzzy guitar. The standout moment of the track, aided by a backing chorus, is Thompson’s delicate vocals.
‘When It All Comes Down To Love’ and ‘Precious Hands’ deliver wonderful harmonies between Tompson and Brown. Both voices are distinct, unique, and totally deserving of their respective vocal tracks – but together they are something truly pleasant to behold. Motion provides an incredibly delicate aside, complete with church bells, triangles, and flute. Thompson‘s vocals come off oddly harsh in the first few lines but eventually settle into a more fitting elegance. The distinctive brass of the saxophone kicks in towards the end of the track but is done in such a carefully toned way that the delicacy of the track is highlighted.
‘Blind’ gives Brown his opportunity for his own quite aside. The instrumentation is pleasant and the guitar perfectly sparse, but the track is ultimately somewhat in the shadow of its exceptional predecessor Motion. The record rounds out nicely with the eerie ‘Full of Fear’. Warped synths and bluesy guitar quietly support Thompson‘s vocals which particularly shine with the addition of the occasional backing vocals from Brown – another example of the exceptional cohesivity of the record and of Dorsal Fins as a group.
Dorsal Fins have approached the album with equal amounts of fun and maturity. As well as the fact that Digital Zodiac is a purely enjoyable record, its cohesivity makes it an incredibly satisfying listen. Digital Zodiac has completely hit the mark – and it feels so good.
Digital Zodiac is out now via Dot Dash / Remote Control Records
You can catch Dorsal Fins on tour in November
Friday 4th November | Deadlam – The Brightside, Fortitude Valley, QLD | Tickets
Sunday 6th November | Darebin Music Feast (Closing Party) – Preston, VIC | Free Show
Sunday 13th November | Love Live Music at the ‘G (MMW) – Melbourne, VIC | Tickets
Friday 19th November | Face The Music (MMW) – Forecourt, Melbourne, VIC | Free show
Saturday 19th November | THE PLOT – Paramatta Park, NSW | Tickets