“Daniel G. Harmann & The Trouble Starts is the result of collaboration between long time soloist Dan Harmann and his new supporting band, The Trouble Starts. Unbeknown to me, Mr. Harmann has been around for a while now, with his latest album, Risk, serving as his sixth studio effort. He fits somewhere in the realm of conceptual experimentalists like Sigur Ros, but shares much with folky singer song writers like Greg MacPherson. However, even with such respectable comparisons floating around, and what sounds like a lot of time and effort on Harmann’s part, something feels amiss.
My chief hang up with Risk is that Harmann and his group sound tired and uninterested. Now, considering the volumes of layers within (instrumentally Risk could put even an onion to shame), I doubt this is true beyond my own reading, but that does little to change my gut reaction. True, opener ‘We Are Professionals’ starts things off with a grand sense of wonder, but conversely never develops beyond that initial state of potential. Harmann’s voice sounds washed out and faded to the point of blending into the indeterminate, fuzzy backdrop. As becomes clear in the following track, ‘Solidarity,’ and those later like ‘I Became The Ground’ or ‘Lions,’ songs simply follow a pattern of soft, blurring chords layered under and punctuated by plenty of indistinguishable “ooos” and “aaahs” that drown out most vocal clarity.
Along those same lines, the music detracts from the apparent sense of lyrical direction. According to the band bio, songs like ‘I Became The Ground’ are about deeply personal times in Harmann’s life. Unfortunately, nothing ever comes across as such, with lyrics simply fading into one another, coming across as a faded, moaning mass of indistinguishable – albeit pleasant – noise. But while like-minded bands such as The Appleseed Cast achieve a sense of emotional investment through a variety of strategies, Harmann misses the mark, with every song blurring together, always shy of achieving any memorable or unique elements.
Risk isn’t a bad album, but takes very few chances and plays like a snoozer for those who, like myself, might want something a little more substantial to sink their teeth into. Normally I take kindly to abstract instrumentals and wispy vocal patterns, but Daniel G. Harmann & the Trouble Starts simply offers too much of an average thing, taking the ensuing monotony to the point of blandness. Unless you find yourself drawn to tiresome daydreams, Risk is worth little more than a curious listen.”