David Balfe, aka For Those I Love, is a Dublin-based spoken-word artist and producer. He recently released his debut record For Those I Love, a record that focuses on the death of a close friend and the subsequent grieving process.
Listening to For Those I Love for the first time, I can’t help but think of William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops.
In short, The Disintegration Loops is a series of four albums made up of tape loops that gradually deteriorated each time they passed the tape head. Basinksi didn’t predict this would happen as he transferred recordings he made in the 80s to digital format, but it did. The result is a record, that while being quite poignant, is also hopeful. But here’s the crux of the reference.
Having finished the project on the morning of 9/11, Basinski and his friends celebrated its completion on the roof of his apartment building. In time, the group witnessed the attack on and fall of the Twin Towers. Basinski captured footage of the attacks, stills of which featured as covers on the four albums. In time, people turned to The Disintegration Loops in remembrance of the attacks, the work also being played by an orchestra at The Met on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
The drawn-out correlation I’m hoping to make here is that of art in memoriam. While Basinski’s work is now inextricably linked with the tragic events of 9/11, Balfe’s requiem is tied largely to loss. That “loss” varies from the loss of his best friend Paul Curran to time and a way of living. The impact of growing up during the recession and witnessing changes in the society that surrounded him isn’t ignored either.
That’s not to say For Those I Love doesn’t offer hope, however,or more than its fair share of bright spells.
Love, Love, Love: The heart of For Those I Love
For Those I Love is not David Balfe’s first venture into music. He was part of bands Plagues, The Branch Becomes, and the brilliant punk collective Burnt Out where he played alongside Curran. Burnt Out’s two songs, ‘Joyrider’ and ‘Dear James’, are played by The Murder Capital at the beginning of their live shows.
Musically, For Those I Love is a stunning piece of work. There’s the conflicting, albeit enthralling, anachronistic use of electronics that even if the lyrics don’t do it for you, the urge to move will. You could actually get up and dance to this record. ‘The Myth/I Don’t’, for example, builds and builds while the story Balfe relays gets darker and more hopeless until it all falls into a trance-like beat that would genuinely not seem out of place on Dublin’s dancefloors.
Lyrically, Balfe covers everything from mental health issues (‘The Myth/I Don’t’) to murder in the community (‘Birthday/The Pain’) to drugs and class division (‘Top Scheme’). His spoken-word delivery is every bit as captivating as what he is saying; all the chapters of his life’s story that he reads to us.
Balfe works in samples too, with lyrics from Jackson C. Frank’s ‘Crying like a Baby’ closing out the final track ‘Leave Me Not Love’. We hear the influence of Mike Skinner throughout, with references to The Streets’ albums and songs aplenty. And then there are the phone recordings and WhatsApp messages, snippets of well wishes and banter between the boys, remnants of bygone times.
As a complete piece, I do think For Those I Love has enough for every type of listener, even it’s just for one spin. Whether it’s poetry, production (Balfe recorded most of the album at home), or beats, there’s a moment here for you to capture.
When the music stops
Balfe stated in a recent Instagram Q&A that going public with the record wasn’t easy. He added that instead of the recording being a source of catharsis, it instead heaped more pressure and guilt onto his shoulders. That of course is understandable, what with the success of the record and the glowing reviews it has had. It must be difficult that the one person he would most want to share such a success with is not around. It’s a cruel conundrum.
For many people, and Balfe himself I’m sure, the question of “what next” looms large even at this early stage. Is it a project with longevity, or is it to be retired as an act dedicated to one man, one time? That, of course, is for another day. For now, for the listeners, it’s about heeding one man’s eulogy and appreciating the people around you.
Finding For Those I Love
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