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Released January of 2013, Songs Of My People is the debut album of David E Johnston, professionally known as Gift of Tongues. Very artistic, purposeful and satirical music, Johnston’s work is much more intense and sincere than that of other electronica artists, which in turn creates sincerity and authenticity.
Much more mature as an artist, Johnston, 48, originates from California, where he studied graphic design at the Art Centre College in Pasadena and at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. He raps with a voice of wisdom and experience whilst simultaneously evoking a youthful sense of abandon and nonchalance.
Self described as “aggressive… sometimes humorous,” Johnston’s music takes on a sense of performance art reminiscent of and diluted from Marina Abramovich and Ulay – confronting, direct and provocative. Unlike the vulnerability and tenderness created by the famed performance art duo, Johnston performs masked, and in that way, physically distanced from the audience; an emotive and personal connection is paramount.
Johnston is comparable to the likes of Fever Ray (main titles to the new History Channel epic, Vikings), Depeche Mode, and Daft Punk.
Combining the excitement of up-tempo synthesised beats and melodies with poetic verse and satirical commentary, especially prevalent in 10050 Cielo Drive (a reference to the Tate/LaBianca murders).
Preamble, also poetic and bitterly ironic, alludes to the American Dream that has seemed to mutate from its original promises to a politically correct idyll with reference to The Star Spangled Banner.
Gift of Tongues’ lyrical content is certainly an art form; be it satirical and political (Preamble, The Universe, America (The Beautiful) ), or narrative and allegorical (Home, Big Bad Wolf, Gift of Tongues). Tastefully edited, mixed and arranged, Songs of My People is only the beginning for David Johnston; the Big Bad Wolf EP followed a month later, and there is more yet to come.
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Review by Audrey Isabella