‘Light Lab‘ is the song that leads off Daniel Carlson’s forthcoming fourth album, Cartoon Babylon and is a collaboration between a very special group of musicians: Chris Bruce on guitar, Jebin Bruni on keyboards, Earl Harvin on drums, and Meshell Ndegeocello on bass.
Gentle and thoughtful, ‘Light Lab‘ fuses cinematic atmospheres with a chilled and intriguing type of melancholy that Daniel has become known for across his discography to date. Sparkling with gorgeous delicate sounds and Daniel’s comforting voice, the track is a poignant moment of reflection, like a cool breeze emerging to calm the soul. The accompanying video sees a myriad of different coloured (almost animated dot to dot pictures) Daniel Carlson heads singing the track in a simple but eccentric, trippy visual.
Daniel explains: “I lived in Los Angeles in the late 1980s and there was this woman I knew a bit, Tara. She was trying to be a songwriter but was like the rest of us – had all sorts of other gigs just trying to get the rent paid. And one of them was in a funny kind of dump near downtown, I can’t remember the name, a coffee shop that turned into a sort of hipster hang out after 1 or 2 in the morning. And you’d see her there and she’d just be losing it after a twelve-hour shift and you’d ask how she was and she’d say, ‘I’m taking out the half world for a final overhaul,’ which stuck in the back of my brain in a funny way.”
Fast forward to the teens of the next century and Daniel found himself on a boat, drifting through the Ligurian Sea, a guest of a generous art-dealer friend. Afternoons were typically spent swimming off the back of the boat, listening to Joni Mitchell records, with Carlson wondering how in the hell he got there. And, in the middle of a long and lazy afternoon, those strange words about half-worlds came back into his head. “I didn’t have a guitar with me, but that phrase kept coming back around and I started singing it into my phone, just using the memo record. Different melodies, different rhythms. By the time I got back home, I probably had 30 different versions to sort through”.
Arriving back from this idyll, Daniel tried to track Tara down. “The main obstacle was that I couldn’t remember her last name. I’m not sure I’d ever known it in the first place.” But a half dozen emails later, he heard from a mutual friend, who told him that Tara had given up on music, went back to school for engineering, and ended up designing light bulbs (of all things). “And I loved the contrast of these two things I knew about her, the first – her life as a kind of overstretched hustler in LA – that I’d witnessed, and the second – a life working in the lab – that I’d only heard about. And the song went quickly from there.”
And what of Tara? “I did end up getting the song to her, through a kind of roundabout way. She said she liked it, that it reminded her of a moment, which made me happy. Because that’s the whole point, right?”.
Light Lab was released on 12 August.
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Photo: Olga Ginzburg