The music released by Memorials of Distinction always leaves me confused (see also: Porridge Radio). So it is with Denh Izen, the alias of 17-year old Londoner Travis JW Westwood. Stylistically, for example, the Storage Solutions EP finds itself all over the place: the epynomous opener alone is a strange mix od Pink Floyd’s ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’ and Burial’s Rival Dealer (it would not have been out of place on Let’s Eat Grandma’s recent album either). Elsewhere, Westwood evokes Nirvana, Sinatra, Goat Girl and King Krule. If that doesn’t give you an idea of what it sounds like, you should really listen for yourself this time.
The EP’s opener ‘Storage Solutions’ is an eight-minute long instrumental track that borrows an organ from ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’ and overlays a simple repetitive drum beat, like a 3am musical experiment, or like a friend accidentally trying to play a track on YouTube over another song that’s already playing in iTunes. The fact that it sounds good, too, gives us a suspicious feeling. If you were traveling in space, you wouldn’t expect to discover beauty in such a vast randomness either, would you? Altogether, it elicits a sense of thoughtless exploration and sinister chaos.
The anxiety-ridden ‘Goodbye’ gives us a first impression of Westwood’s voice. There is a theory that panic attacks are caused by the mind’s ‘suffocation alarm’ misinterpreting signals and mistakenly infering that you are choking. But when Westwood calmly sings “I can’t breathe” (“ooh wow oh”, he sardonically adds), the panic is buried way too deep for that alarm to sound.
The single ‘What It Means’ is the least straightforward track on Storage Solutions. I imagine someone drunkenly exploring the streets of a city that becomes less and less familiar as time progresses, then turning into dead-end alleys, backing up while walking backwards so the streets behind him don’t mutate, then feeling the city plan open up into increasingly larger and therefore increasingly empty avenues. When Westwood frustratedly sings “Can’t you see”?, you expect the song to accelerate, but instead Denh Izen slows down to ask “What it means to be alive?”. That’s another risk of discovery: sometimes the questions you are asking have no answer; sometimes the continent America does not exist, leaving a vast empty mass in its wake. In that sense, there are similarities between ‘What It Means’ and Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’.
‘The Sea’ is a quieter song. Although, who knows what goes on beneath the surface. The sea itself is an unknown manace, much deeper still than space and infinitely more attractive. At the same time, the sea radiates a calmness which free space lacks; we are all too happy to be taken by the waves.
The final song ‘What Brings (A Smile)’ again reminds me of Radiohead (In Rainbows, mainly). Westwood’s voice is now very close to us, slightly distorted. This is the point where my resistance grows large – I want to turn this off, turn it off before that terrible bark at the end, before I once again feel dirty and confused, paralysed and angry, unsure what it all means, unfair that I have to hear it. It is not, after all, a discovery then, because a discovery requires a discoverer, a free agent with a map. I, on the other hand, feel like something has discovered me after listening to Storage Solutions. An answerless question has found me (thanks, Memorials of Distinction) and leaves me confused again.
-- Caspar Jacobs, September 5, 2018