November 1, 2014

1,000,001 CDs 3: Dalis Car ~ The Waking Hour (30 years later)

cover image, Daybreak by Maxfield Parrish
cover design by Mick Karn
photo of album cover by Styrous®

Thirty years ago this month, November, 1984, Dalis Car released their studio album,  The Waking Hour. I discovered it at a record store a couple of blocks from my studio a few months later in 1985. I was blown away by the music. It is atonal at times, dissonant at others. New Wave, Avantgarde or Experimental, no matter how you describe it, it is truly unique with very strange moods that have kept me intrigued for three decades. 

Dalis Car was formed in 1984 by Peter Murphy (formerly of Bauhaus), Mick Karn (formerly of Japan) and Paul Vincent Lawford (rhythm construction) shortly after Murphy and Karn left their bands. They took their name from a Captain Beefheart song from his album, Trout Mask Replica.

photographer unknown 

The duo only recorded one album, The Waking Hour (UK No. 84), and released one single, The Judgement is the Mirror (UK No. 66). The cover of the album features a detail from the Maxfield Parrish painting, Daybreak.

CD back 

The recording of the album took place in unusual circumstances, as neither Karn nor Murphy spent much time together in the recording studio, preferring to send tapes back and forth between each other, to work on alone. It was the only studio album by Dalis Car; it was released in November, 1984.

All in all, like it or not, The Waking Hour is a surreal acoustic adventure that will never be forgotten once experienced. 

In August 2010, Peter Murphy announced on Twitter that he and Karn were planning to head into the studio in September the same year to begin work on the second Dalis Car album. The project was cut short, however, when Karn was diagnosed with cancer. He died on 4 January 2011, thus ending the reunion. Five of the tracks they did record were released on April 5, 2012 as an EP entitled InGladAloneness.

CD interior, Daybreak by Maxfield Parrish

the music

The music on the album is cerebral and pretty much disjointed and disturbing as opposed to joyous or narrative. The songs need careful consideration to comprehend most of the time. It is not music to dance to; although it is not loud and raucous, there is nothing quiet about it. It considers the topic of each song with a cold, analytical eye that put me off on first listening.  The instrumentals are by Mick Karn with vocals by Peter Murphy. The songs were written by Karn and Murphy. It took me a while to get used to the album but once I did, I loved it.

Dalis Car begins the adventure, with the song by the same name, with a staccato snare then wanders with syncopated dissonance to tell the tale, "...... his words in monotonal hums," as the lyrics go.

Create and Melt features a tabla sound which gives it a beautiful East Indian feeling. is a dreamy piece with a fast, syncopated, staccato rhythm.

Moonlife is quietly dynamic, syncopated and as strange as any of the songs on the album. A slow, resolute stroll with a clarinet backing, it asks "What guides me through this moonlife? Tell me of the child you see. Teach me to prepare".

His Box is a fantastically beautiful mid-east sounding tune with a some dramatic touches worthy of the terms experimental and intriguing; it is really wonderful with great guitar work.

Cornwall Stone is by far the strangest song on the album. With no melody, it just kind of wanders around.

Artemis is an instrumental which sounds like the inside of a factory that is quietly humming away doing what factories do. It has no definite end nor does it fade out as songs sometimes do; it just stops as if the switch has been thrown off.

There is a video of the song, The Judgement Is the Mirror, on YouTube (link below). In it Mick Karn (who resembles a cross between David Carradine and David Bowie) plays with (as opposed to plays) a laser disc (remember those?). The syncopated, almost atonal song declares:

"I question her around the clock
Hanging on her words
Hear myself say the world has stopped
The first step is the worst
The dance is new, momentum high
Like swelling waves around
Hear myself say the flow has stopped
I ask can I be found?"

Track listing:

All songs written and composed by Mick Karn and Peter Murphy, except as indicated.

1 - Dali's Car - 5:12
2 - His Box - 4:42
3 - Cornwall Stone - 5:19
4 - Artemis / Mick Karn - 4:37
5 - Create and Melt - 5:36
6 - Moonlife / Traditional - 4:56
7 - The Judgement Is the Mirror - 4:40


Dalis Car:

Additional personnel:
  • Matt Butler – engineering and mixing
  • Stuart Breed – mixing
  • Steve Churchyard – production, mixing, and engineering
  • Fin Costello – album photography
  • Rory Lonemore – engineering
  • Maxfield Parrish – cover painter
  • Sheila Rock – album photography
Released November, 1984
Recorded Spring and Summer 1984 at The Manor, Air London, and Hernplace Studios
Genre Gothic rock
Length 35:06
Label Beggars Banquet
Producers Dalis Car and Steve Churchyard

Links to Dalis Car music videos on YouTube:
Dali's Car
His Box (live)
Cornwall Stone 
Create and Melt  
The Judgement Is the Mirror

Peter Murphy interview on YouTube

My sincere thanks to Peter Murphy, Mick Karn and Paul Vincent Lawford for the daring and vision to have produced this album in the first place.

Styrous® ~ November 1, 2014

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