King Dude
Tonight’s Special Death

I’ve been “dancing about architecture,” as they say, for quite some time, so the thrill of receiving new bits of music in the mailbox has long ago dissipated. Yet, receiving a nondescript package from overseas still holds a good deal of allure, as if I might be the first to discover some foreign treasure. Thusly, it was with such xenophilia that I greeted the package from Bologna containing a CD, but little information, from the ominously monikered King Dude.

Being of foreign origin, the naming was just as likely to be the result of poor translation as a disaffected sense of irony. I mean, surely this must be some Italian impresario and not an American dumbass, right? This has got to be weighty stuff to spend the extra dinero, n’est-ce pas? Such assumptions cast a mysterious shroud upon the CDR claiming to be the “LP edition” of Mr. Dude’s Tonight’s Special Death, which again came off stilted enough to be a title lost in translation.

With a couple listens doing little to strengthen or dispel the illusion, a quick internet search revealed this music to be the product of a, er, dude hailing from Seattle. How he is getting some schmuck in Italy to pay the cost of importing the record back into the States is of little matter, though, and there’s still something about this piece of plastic that keeps me from tossing it into the dustbin. Maybe it is this unquantifiable quality that has attracted my Bolognese brethren, but when it now comes to appreciating the music at face value, I’m increasingly conflicted.

This Dude occupies a unique sphere where apocalyptic folk and etheric afterthoughts hang in the same stratosphere. Indeed, “Slaves,” which supposedly closes the first side of the record, thrusts his monochromatic meanderings against a spectral background occupied by vesperal synths and the equally ghostly vocals of Kendra Malia. The vast majority of the record, however, is more barebones, with the Dude’s skeletal folk leanings positing a kind of goth minimalism. On “Design,” he sings about holding the dead and on “Love All Around You,” he creates a modern take on the campfire ghost story, with Western nodes juxtaposed against his eidolic delivery. In other instances, though, it sounds like a suburban kid doing his best Nick Cave impression. Nonetheless, such gothic motifs come to a head with “Day of the Night,” on which King Dude delves deeper into his vocal reserves, divining a low, resonate tone that is as much Johnny Cash as it is Andrew Eldritch. The mystique and allure of this album is surely not as great knowing that the author is likely a barista and not an agent of Beelzebub in his off-time, but for the most part, that never lessens the record’s visceral impact.
Stephen Slaybaugh