Words: James Frostick
Three years on from the release of its debut LP Benefits of Solitude, Melbourne/Naarm-based group Dag has just dropped a new two-track release called Breathe Deeply. Lead single ‘I Will Miss The Ocean (I Will Miss The Trees)’ is a pristine piece of introspective songwriting – an ode to how the little things can tether and ground us when life’s errant gusts threaten to carry us off course.
Dusty Anastassiou’s music often grapples with loneliness. It’s a dog-eared concept explored by many musicians creating on the societal fringe, but of this lot Dusty is perhaps one of the most adept and making loneliness sound beautiful and heartbreaking simultaneously. As the driving force behind Dag, Dusty is chiefly responsible for kneading the sonic dough and imbuing it with the right amount of pep and vigour to make it springy and digestible, as well as sprinkling in traces of an intangible sadness – the kind manifested across many lonely and sleepless nights. That’s not to say Dag is a wholly cheerless endeavour – across Dag’s concise back catalogue there are moments of levity that help bring Dusty’s tales (typically pertaining to rural isolation, uncomfortable adulthood anxieties and the existential crises they cause) out of the depressive well they typically reside. Dusty’s knack for offbeat songcraft make these stories engrossing and listenable, regardless of the disquieting nature.
Dag’s new track ‘I Will Miss The Ocean (I Will Miss The Trees)’ – the first piece of music from the band since a 2017 split 7″ with Thigh Master – is a continuation of the group’s singular somber mood, but one that contains a poetic richness that adds vivid lustre to the entire composition. Musically, it’s pretty low-key. The foundational elements – a shambling drum-machine patter, drowsy bass strum, fuzzy synth underlay and modulated high-pitched whine – lead me to envision Dusty secreted away in his room (perhaps in lockdown), making the bones of the track out of the instruments close at hand. The true magic of the song is found in the lyrics, where Dusty reckons with perpetual aimlessness through artful turns of phrase (“I am a sailor anchored to a bottomless sea / And the wind has died“). There’s an unsteadiness of being communicated here that seem to make purposeful strides forward difficult, though Dusty manages to foster a healthy appreciation for the little things – the trees, the ocean, the “warm, tender kiss” of his lover – despite the shakiness of his soul. It’s these steadying reminders – the baby steps, the peaceful moments – that keep him centred, allowing him to build a mental fortitude against the chaos of life (“I will burn my troubles on a big, black fire / And grow a garden from the coals“). This song is a reminder that often it’s the little things – the memories we cling to when we find ourselves lost and alone – that matter most.
Breathe Deeply is available for ‘name your price’ digital purchase via Dag’s Bandcamp. The release also features a cover of ‘Te Recuerdo Amanda’ by Chilean folk singer/songwriter Victor Jara. All proceeds of sales will be donated to charities assisting Melbourne/Naarm residents during lockdown.