Digital Down: “Open Source Nervous System” is clearly working in an area trod by few groups
Digital Down is located in central Arkansas and consists of sole member, Melville Bragg. Melville started his professional career in late 2015 with the release of the first EP entitled “Incunabula”. Melville has since placed 2nd in an international music contest hosted by software company Open Labs and sponsored by Linkin Park, as well as release his first full-length album, entitled “Open Source Nervous System”. At this point, many decades into its existence, it can be fairly expected that rock is not going to cough up a new paradigm anytime soon. The advent of digital sampling technology and electronic manipulation, both of which slunk in through the back door, have not reworked the fundamental rock structure in any significant manner; rather, it has changed the way it is generated, and real guitars may be traded for synths and samples.
This is not to say that rock is a dead form, by any means either. Though it often seems to move forward on hiccups and inertia, it periodically shakes itself awake and offers something genuine and vital, a small jewel extruded from a largely undifferentiated mass of refuse. Such a small jewel is the album from Digital Down. After the opening “Retina”, the immediate impact of Melville’s voice on “Incunabula” cannot be discounted; it was the thing which immediately catapulted Digital Down beyond their contemporaries for me. A smooth, melodic blanket of warmth, Melville’s voice can raise goosebumps on the skin. He never resorts to the screeching or barking of so many rock singers – electric or electronic.
The confirmation of the above statement comes with the advent of “Beyond The Trees”, which is loaded with a dark, mysterious atmosphere. Melville’s voice rises gently above the pulsing rhythms, mingling with the spiraling synths to create a quiet storm reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails, only less monstrously ominous and more melodically captivating.
This quaint combination is repeated on “Stepdown – Alternate” with the same positive results. A mention obviously has to be made for the throbbing darkwave version of “Putting On The Ritz”, but it’s “Heaven Isn’t Here” where Digital Down have a clear advantage over almost every band in America right now: their sound.
Melville is clearly working in an area trod by few groups, the essential power-electronic foundation of their music is bolstered by throbbing, mantra-like basslines and synth leads which create a wholly new kind of blend between darkwave and industrial. Digital Down also do right by choosing mood and economy over pretension and bloat.
The occasional growling experimental sound is splattered across the album here and there, like “Dr Faust” and “Mind Harvest”. The songs are short and to-the-point, disregarding the final monster track, “Heer Public Archive 1943”, coming in at 11 minutes and 57 seconds, and which I shall leave you to hear for yourself.
“Open Source Nervous System” is an amazing album. Full of several mystical and mysterious songs, with beautiful arrangements, outstanding vocals and really impressive electronic sounds and rhythms loaded with emotion. Melville Bragg’s eerily sweet tone emphasizes his dark melodies that both caress, and taunt your soul.
“Open Source Nervous System” includes 3 remastered versions of older songs, 2 alternative versions, a B-Side from the “Nervous System EP”, 6 segues, an intro track which is the oldest track released so far (2009), an outtro track, 1 demo version and a Bonus track from “Incunabula” originally only released under Chinese distribution.