It takes time to find your voice as a musician, and sometimes when you do find it, that voice isn’t even recognizable. Such is the case for prolific New Jersey-based producer Dan Casey.
After years of playing in bands in Philadelphia, PA, Casey began experimenting with electronic music under the moniker Yalls following a move to Berkeley, CA in 2010. Over the course of five years and eight records, Yalls explored many styles but rarely stayed in one. It largely became a project of impulse and experimentation that, despite its lack of cohesion, built Casey’s audience through a regular stream of releases and consistent praise from influential music press such as The Fader, Stereogum, and many more.
During that same period, Casey began side projects with names like Daniel Sex Jr and Steezy Ray Vibes, he recorded over two dozen tracks with Bay Area rapper Squadda B (of Main Attrakionz), and built a reputation as a remixer with interpretations of artists like Majical Cloudz, The Xx, and Rhye. Finally, in 2013, he released music under his given name, as if to remind himself who was at the heart of this incredible creative streak.
It takes time to find yourself, and sometimes it takes an identity crisis to bring clarity. To know what you truly want to say, you can’t say everything. To know who you truly are, you can’t be everything. Dan Casey had spent half a decade trying to say everything and be everything at the same time.
“I feel like being destroyed,” sings Casey in a pitch-shifted lilt on “a note”, one of the first songs to be released as dd elle in early 2014. In an attempt to bring focus to his output and wipe the slate clean, Casey took on a new alias and changed his approach to producing, becoming more intentional with every decision.
“I wanted to make an effort to have each second of music mean as much as possible and take crafting sounds and melodies to a new place,” says Casey. “dd elle is working toward building a very specific world.”
In approaching dd elle, Casey began to build that world by making a series of changes to his sound. Some changes were simple, like writing a pop melody in an octave he could never hit, being forced to pitch-shift his voice, becoming unidentifiable. Some changes were as particular as utilizing minimal solo guitar and saxophone riffs from 1980s movie soundtracks. Occasionally he would pull from newfound inspirations like the unusual chord voicing of new age artists like Ray Lynch and Steve Roach. Some changes were as esoteric as creating his own set of rules for production, much like Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, such as “Abrasion of sounds (but not abrasive sounds)” and, most importantly “Silence often.”
However, it was in those moments where Casey was not silent that would be the most profound. For the first time personal issues of isolation, depression, loneliness, and unrequited love found their way into Casey’s music.
Over three months in 2014, demos for “a note”, “kind 2 u”, and “love me only” were released on dd elle’s SoundCloud, quickly followed by the single “tell me” on Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Songs label. The collection of tracks earned praise and comparisons to some of the most forward-thinking, modern electronic pop artists such as Jai Paul, The Knife, and SOPHIE. The press called dd elle’s slow-motion, bass-driven vocal pop “like a plastic flower in a color you hadn't seen before” (The Fader), “revealingly intimate” (Stereogum), “endearing” (Gorilla Vs Bear), and “nostalgic” (Pigeons & Planes) with the “lazy afternoon vibes” (TLOBF) and “tranquil dreamscapes” (Stereogum) of “a summer ending breeze” (The 405).
It was almost unanimous, dd elle had touched on something singular and immediate that was both familiar and Casey’s own. This was the focus Casey had been chasing. The coverage also noted how “mysterious” the artist was, no one knew a thing about dd elle.
Something has to be destroyed to be rebuilt. Dan Casey is dd elle.
Now signed to Slow Release, a new label founded by Cameron Reed (Warp Records recording artist Babe Rainbow), dd elle is set to release his debut EP u on September 25th, 2015 with a full length planned for early 2016.
It takes time to find your voice, sometimes forever, but Casey is finally speaking in his own voice, albeit altered beyond recognition. And after all, Casey doesn’t have to say much to make an impact: “Silence often.”
released September 25, 2015
Mixed and produced by Dan Casey.
Mastered by Josh at Otic Sound.
If it’s so, if you’re still with me, why don’t you come out and say?
All along you’ve been beside me, now you’re way behind
All my love, i’ll give to you - but i promise nothing more
Lately i’ve been dreaming bigger (baby) then i did before
Only space will let you see that I was right for you.
Life is hard enough by yourself. Only time will tell, it’s true.
Up again at 3am, the whole world is gone.
But i keep on calling you, just keep on hanging on.
Track Name: kind 2 u
No, no I see you sitting there all blush.
later on i hear you singing songs about love.
turns me on. (yeah) it turns me on
all the time.
there is no going back, i think i know your kind
and i’ll be kind to you (baby)
i’m a fool when it comes to love
i’m a freak
all of the above
Track Name: love me only
Although i know this won’t go anywhere
I can’t stand it;
I need you everywhere
Feel so helpless, can’t get any rest
Want you so bad it keeps me up at night
Lie to me, lie to me
Tell me that you love me only
lay with me, it’s fine with me
just tell me that you love me only
tell me that you love no other
tell me, tell me
all about those names you’ve uttered
just tell me that you love no other.
lie to me, lie to me
tell me that you only love m
it’s fine with me, it’s fine with me
just tell me that you love me only
i’ll be hopeful again
i saw hope up ahead
i saw hope
Track Name: all i ever need
your hands touching me, it’s all i ever need
call me when you feel, it’s all i ever dream
diamonds in the rough, all i ever see
call me when you feel, see me if it’s real
(yea) I wanna try
make it right
with you tonight
i fade away,
i dream i fade away at the right time
you said nothing,
nothing takes again
dreaming of you.
need you in my life
Track Name: a note
I feel like jumping in front of something
I feel like being destroyed
feel like taking my final sigh
feel like leaving a note
Reaching out with both your hands
nothing to touch or to hold
Sleeping forever, sleeping forever
feel like leaving a note