Reflecting on a Dying Man is the second solo album from Los Angeles-based producer and NTS Night Shift radio host Diamondstein, but if you count his two split releases with Manchester’s Sangam, really it’s his fourth. Much like 2016’s The Ridges and 2018’s The Ocean Between Us (with Sangam), Reflecting on a Dying Man‘s sonic bedrock is a richly cinematic integration of post-vaporwave production techniques, power electronics/industrial, dark ambient, and glitchy 90s electronica, all reimagined as a sonic cyberpunk noir. However, this time around, the cyberpunk isn’t futuristic (in a forward-leaning sense). As opposed to the vast nonspecific megapolises of his past works, it plays out within the stark Appalachian landscapes of Parkersburg, West Virginia, where he spent six months with his dying father during the final stages of a terminal battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Across Reflecting on a Dying Man’s ten songs, Diamondstein uses his considerable composition, arrangement and production skills to present a series of audio portraits of moments in this tragic and meditative experience. No stranger to collaboration, this time around he ramped things up, with a cast of guests contributing vocals, trumpet, piano, and drums in aid of fleshing out his atmospheres; and what atmospheres they are. Released through Doom Trip Records in digital and CD formats, Reflecting on a Dying Man works best as a complete listening suite, a record for the end of the evening, or some time spent alone, preferably while pouring over the extensive liner notes/short story collection and high-concept/high-production music videos Diamondstein put together to support the project.
Beginning with ‘Since The Beginning’, Reflecting on a Dying Man doesn’t waste any time building a mood, with the first three songs rolling out in recognisably Diamondsteinen style. Things really shift on the fourth track, ‘Antique Stores’, where Diamondstein turns Lynchian reversed strings and gentle, melodic percussion into what could serve as the ultimate alt-soundtrack for the baroque bedroom at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Directly followed by the surreal speakeasy blues of ‘School Town Cinema’ (ft. Tommy Goodkin), the two-pieces serve as a crucial respite before the ruptured rhythmmatics of the second half of the album. Over those final five songs, Diamondstein increases the intensity and anxiety as he builds towards a harrowing thrashtronic conclusion on ‘Cold to Touch’.
Between the different pulls and impulses displayed across Reflecting on a Dying Man, there is a level of beauty and brutality at work here that, beyond being in keeping with Diamondstein’s past releases, also feels like exactly where he needed to arrive with this immaculately mixed and produced project. Hopefully, the quality of material on display here will help bring him closer to the recognition his work deserves.
Reflecting on a Dying Man is out now on Doom Trip Records in digital and CD formats (buy here)