It was back in May that I first encountered Australia’s D.D Dumbo (AKA Oliver Hugh Perry) by way of lead single ‘Satan’. What I heard was immediate, intricate and emotionally affecting experimental pop: an increasingly unsettling vocal performance that eventually became almost demonic, scattered over a gritty rhythmic gallop decorated with the wealth of instrumentation you’d expect from mid-career Sufjan Stevens. Perry’s abstract lyrics were perfectly matched by his unrelenting attention to musical detail. Bizarre sounds – screams, flutes, harps, synthetic textures – all appeared and disappeared like spectral forces within the lush four minutes of the track’s production. In that week alone I probably listened to ‘Satan’ close to a hundred times.

Utopia Defeated has, as a result, been one of my most anticipated albums of 2016. I’ve sat with it a while now and I can confidently say it’s good. Really quite good. But, as an album, it has yet to demand of me the compulsive listening that ‘Satan’ did. I mentioned that ‘Satan’ was immediate, intricate and emotionally affecting – well, the issue for me is that Utopia Defeated is, consistently, only two out of three. It’s pretty consistently immediate, definitely consistently intricate but not consistently emotionally affecting. And that last one’s a clincher; it separates albums I really like from those I adore.

Nonetheless, there are some fantastic songs on this album. Opening track ‘Walrus’, for example, nails all three categories, kicking off with a blend of North African blues guitar reminiscent of Tinariwen and Ali Farka Touré; meticulously detailed percussion, and pulsing vocal textures. Here again it is Perry’s ability to write and deliver an incredibly nuanced topline that brings the song to its full potential. Equipped with mystical lyricism and a warble that is equal parts David Byrne and David Longstreth, it certainly seems that Perry is paying his fair share of respect to Remain in Light¬-era Talking Heads, but does so whilst still honing a sound that is definitively his own.

On ‘In the Water’ and ‘Toxic City’ we’re shown Perry’s versatility, as he blends soft, delicate desert ballads seamlessly into the tracklisting. In the former, the 12-string guitar that painted its signature all over his 2014 Tropical Oceans EP fashions a dreamy shimmering haze from which warm clarinets and Perry’s beautifully fragile croon emerge. ‘Toxic City’ trades off the clarinets for reverb-soaked piano tinkering and the faint churn of brush-led drumming.

’Alihukwe’ is the first track other than ‘Satan’ I’d heard previously, having been included on the Tropical Oceans EP, but this new version is quite a departure from the brash, fuzzed out original take. This new cut is, in my opinion, all the better for it, garnished with droning tanpura and a melody line you might find on a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan record. However, as cool as it sounds, it doesn’t have the unhinged emotional weight that highlights like ‘Satan’ and ‘Brother’ have. ‘Brother’ channels Perry’s deliciously crazed side, building relentlessly towards its arresting climax, only to leave you gasping for air as it’s pulled out from underneath your feet, with Perry dementedly wailing “Lord have mercy, what have I done?!” one final time. The abstract lyrics throughout the album draw from a natural world themed palette and, given the title Utopia Defeated, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this record is a polemic against, or at the very least a mourning of, humankind’s flippant destruction of the natural world.

Tracks like ‘Cortisol’ and ‘Oyster’ don’t come together in as compelling a way. It’s particularly a shame that the album ends on low point ‘Oyster’, which is dull in the way of instrumentation compared to the rest of the album. As a result, Perry’s feverish singing, which feels so natural elsewhere, here ends up coming off over the top and forced.

On the live stage, D.D Dumbo is known for playing solo and constructing his compositions using loop pedals, so it’s impressive how these songs have been arranged and well produced (by Perry himself) in such a complex and polyphonic way. Yet, for an artist who is clearly able and willing to venture far deeper into the experimental than most, D.D Dumbo still feels a little on the timid side on Utopia Defeated. The tracks are structured fairly regularly and mostly clock in below 4 minutes (save for ‘Satan’ and ‘Alihukwe’). As such there are times where I feel like Perry’s inner virtuoso isn’t given quite enough room to shine.

In the run up to the record, I had anticipated one or two moments where that might happen: exploratory passages centred on grooves where any one of the many instruments Perry plays might come to the fore and tear the track the hell up. I’d even hoped for a traditional song structure thrown out in favour of an extended section of freeform performance and improvisation not uncommon in the history of world-music/pop crossover. ‘King Franco Picasso’ certainly nods in this direction, with its highlight of clarinet interplay in the final minute, yet this stops short only to have the song fizzle out forgettably. Similarly, ‘Cortisol’ features a North African style guitar solo, but this doesn’t ever reach its full potential, perhaps because in general the track feels like a less developed and less emotionally stirring partner to ‘Satan’.

All this is a sign of D.D Dumbo’s promise. Given Utopia Defeated is Perry’s debut full-length it’s hardly surprising he’s kept things on the more conventional side (and I use conventional relative to Perry’s influences – this record is a lot less conventional than most pop music I’ve heard this year). He is undoubtedly an absurdly talented fellow and has the creative potential to make a truly groundbreaking album. This isn’t that, but it is a strong debut. And perhaps more importantly, it’s got me very excited for what Perry might have in store for us as he matures.