On October 11, David Turpin will release Romances, his long-awaited new album as The Late David Turpin.
The result of three years of collaboration with over 60 singers, musicians and producers, Romances sees Turpin divide lead vocal duties among no fewer than ten special guests: Elephant, Bear Worship, Xona (Xo Mo), Adam Matthews, D. McCabe (formerly Jon Dots), Gar Cox, Samyel, Jaime Nanci, Martin McCann (Sack) and Conor O’Brien (Villagers).
In a seemingly perverse twist, David has cast his suite of romantically-fixated after-hours love songs entirely with male lead vocalists. As he puts it: “Our culture has a tendency to denigrate anything it perceives as romantic, implicitly because it denigrates anything it perceives as feminine. I wanted to take subjects and styles associated with the ‘feminine’, and put men into those positions, to see if things might happen that are unexpected, or disquieting, or erotic”.
The result is a lavish, contemporary pop record that is also unabashedly queer. It sighs, swoons, and melts down the myth of the ‘masculine’, one misty slow jam at a time. The songs are shaped for pleasure, but loaded with signifiers taken from mythology, cinema and literature – reflecting, in part, the way queer audiences sift through popular culture for hidden meanings and objects of heightened significance.
Highlights include: ‘Concubine’ (featuring Elephant), a ghostly trap-influenced odyssey that quotes Frank Herbert’s Dune; the labyrinthine title track (featuring Nigerian-Irish singer Xona, and with co-production from Simon Cullen of Choice Prize winners Ships), which gorges on the aphrodisiac properties of malicious gossip; a ballad, ‘Lucifer’ (featuring Sack frontman Martin McCann), reframing the conflict between God and Satan as a lovers’ estrangement; and ‘Couldn’t Do Without’, a cover of a song by little-known 1970s gay folk singer Michael Cohen, here reimagined as pillow-soft synth-soul, with a vocal by Villagers’ Conor O’Brien.
The unusual format of Romances – in which David ‘cast’ singers to pre-written material – was influenced by David’s burgeoning career in film over the six years since his last music release (2013’s We Belong Dead). His first feature as screenwriter – the gothic fantasy The Lodgers – premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2017, and was subsequently acquired for worldwide release by Netflix; his second, The Winter Lake – which stars Emma Mackey (Sex Education), Charlie Murphy (Peaky Blinders) and Michael McElhatton (Game of Thrones) – is currently in post-production.
In lieu of a conventional physical release, David has worked with the artist Dorje De Burgh to produce a limited edition photo-book (with a download code and optional CD). The book’s images and artwork make explicit the 1980s influence at work in Romances – particularly that of the celebrated avant-garde filmmaker Derek Jarman. Like everything else about the album, it reflects Turpin’s commitment to taking a fresh approach the singular territory he has carved out in his ten years as a recording artist.