REVIEWS ROUNDUP: Graham Domain

PHOTO CREDIT: CECILY ENO

Roger Eno ‘The Turning Year’
(Deustsche Grammophon) 22nd April 2022

Walking down rain sodden streets, the lights from car headlights and shop windows reflected in the wet pavements and puddle-strewn roads. Shops closing early, café’s empty and being cleaned. A sepia world of sadness over-shot with colour, hope, a need, a craving for love and an end to this all-pervading sense of loneliness.

The Turning Year inhabits this world of rain, loneliness, hope, longing, forever searching. Always the sense of arriving too late, shops closing, opportunities missed, soaked to the skin but still looking to the stars – forever chasing the elusive shadow that is love. Glimpsed for a fleeting heartbeat. A dream, of hope. To love is to live. Love is the beginning, the awakening. Happiness and heartache, sadness and ecstasy, purpose and despair, confusion and belief, danger and grace.

The Turning Year is music of beauty, simplicity, sadness with underlying hope. At its best it is melodic or mysterious piano underscored by beautiful string orchestration. It engages the mind, the body, the emotions. It is music to treasure.

Highlights: ‘The Turning Year’, ‘A Place We Once Walked’, ‘On the Horizon’, ‘Low Cloud Dark Skies’.

Dana Gavanski ‘When It Comes’
(Flemish Eye/North America, Full Time Hobby/UK) 29th April 2022

Photo Credit: Clementine Schneidermann

When it Comes is the wonderful second album by Canadian/Serbian singer songwriter Dana Gavanski. It is an album of strange melodic songs that don’t quite make sense in a literal way but imprint themselves on the mind of the listener, stirring emotions, attaching themselves to the psyche and staying there like half-remembered memories of past lives.

The songs exist in dream dimensions where images are thrown up in random succession, touching emotions at an elemental level, like ancestral knowledge or the wonders of the natural world – the untamed ocean, stunning mountain sunsets, summer meadow’s humming with bees and wild flying insects.

The album begins with ‘I Kiss The Night’ a strange intriguing song that engenders feelings of isolation, loneliness: abandonment even. The protagonist just about holding things together, dissecting and controlling her emotions – “I built a fortress in my mind– take apart the thoughts – leave the furthest far behind.” But is her dream lover all in her mind as she imagines “milk white words of love falling on (her) sleepy head” and pictures “the faces that were never there” leading to the sad refrain of “I needed you to help me – but every night… it’s just the moon that I see”.

In ‘Bend Away And Fall’ the singer focuses in on her feelings as they change “bend away and fall” and considers that the love she is now experiencing is “slower, scented, experience altering!” The words are impressionistic, non-specific and primordial, painting emotive colour over metal black memory.

Dana Gavanski possesses a voice that is light, tender but somehow emotionally detached with a tone and phrasing similar to Cate Le Bon. But, while Cate Le Bon writes intelligent absurdist lyrics that cut to the chase, Dana Gavanski’s lyrics are more abstract and non-linear, reflecting feelings that cannot easily be expressed in words.

Perhaps the most commercial song is ‘Letting Go’ a simple song about reaching a point where a person is able to let go of emotions from past relationships and move on: “I thought I saw my solitude end it’s hour of grieving.” The singer unconsciously seeking love again, “it happens every time I find a hole, just to fill it.” She is finally ready emotionally to re-take the plunge, her confidence re-charged she is feeling good once more: ‘The Sun’s so hot, I heat up again”

‘The Day Unfolds‘… begins with a crawling crab of a rhythm walking sideways and sounding not unlike Wire circa Chairs Missing. Again, the words are abstract and open to interpretation with “snow falling bright, shapes in plight”, but may be about losing your own sense of self in a bad relationship…”Control, a bending knife you will shine… I’m losing my way, down the avenue… I found my soul undone… I know fallen one your time will come.”

Meantime, the song ‘Lisa’ reminds me of Weyes Blood but plays like a Scott Walker suburban drama of loneliness, longing, desperation, and unrequited love. The protagonist pleading “Please Sir have you noticed me… I watch you roam the streets a frown sketched on your face, chasing after days that melt behind… crowds form early on, dogs and families and city siren songs, I wait until they’re gone to show my face… Something like this I have never felt… a belly full of tremors… and what I can offer you?”

The album ends with the hymnal ‘Knowing to Trust’, which comes across like Beach House covering Mazzy Star. Again the abstract lyrics breath life and strangeness into the song… “Face on, am I howling too loud, does my worry crowd your view?”

Although I have tried to interpret some of the songs on the album, it is often not the words she sings but the feelings the songs stir. The songs and the album are the musical equivalent of Penda’s Fen, you can’t elicit why it’s great but it leaves an emotive lasting impression.

Dana Gavanski has created a wonderful album, mysterious, beguiling, intriguing, full of wonders to be uncovered with each listen. The music that underpins the songs is sparse, minimal but warm, played on strummed guitar, piano, electric keyboards, synth, organ and drum-machine. Vocally Dana Gavanski falls somewhere in-between Cate Le Bon and Weyes Blood. Creatively, she perhaps falls closer to Nico or Aldous Harding with her oblique, abstract words conjuring up scenarios of emotion by the juxtaposition of images and lyrical ambience.

Key Tracks: ‘I Kiss The Night’, ‘Letting Go’, ‘The Day Unfolds’, ‘Knowing to Trust’.

Ignacio Simon ‘Old Friends’

Old Friends is the beautiful new album by Ignacio Simon (a composer, musician and artist, Spanish but based in England). Seven years in the making, it is the attention to detail and beautiful understatement, that makes this such a compelling listen. The space as important as the notes played.

The album begins with the whispered sigh of a song that is ‘Don’t be Long’. As the song progresses, minimal guitar gives way to silence, cello and a choir of mermaids singing on a distant shore. Sounding like it was arranged by Scott Walker circa Tilt, it is a thing of beauty, hope mixed with sadness.

The following mood piece ‘Victor’ begins with dissonance and single piano chords with ten seconds of silence, repeated, before cello, double bass and more dissonance make their own small marks on the canvas. Just when you think it has ended, mumbles of words come in creating an ambience of regret and longing from a jumble of memory and half remembered dream. More an expression of feeling than a song, the words are oblique and the message non-linear, understood more on a primordial, emotional, unconscious level.

‘Being Here’ follows like a disturbing nightmare with its discordant clangs, ghostly murmurs and sighs, suggesting suspense, dread, a stalking evil, dark rooms of terror, confinement and lunacy!

By way of contrast ‘Old Friends’ sighs in with soft brushed drums, double bass, understated guitar and ripples of orchestra, sounding majestic, like David Sylvian at his most heart breaking. The vocals, like “gentle drones inside our heads”, have echoes of Mark Hollis, Bill Callahan and Rufus Wainwright. This is perhaps the standout track on the album with its minimal soft jazz beauty and uplifting sadness.

The night terror interlude of ‘Being There’ begins with a crescendo stab of orchestral menace and a choir of distant full moon madness – like howling lost souls heard from far, far, away. Soon gone, it is replaced by the serene magic of…

‘The Magician’, a mystic hymn to nature and the continual cycle of life – birth, death, decline and renewal. Minor key piano chords underpin feelings of detachment and isolation as the words seep out … “We won’t touch, we won’t exchange a word…” Echoes of the Pop Group’s ‘The Savage Sea’ can be heard in the abstraction and widescreen sonic wastelands as he sings, “When will the sun come up?” The song fading into raptures of delirium, drowning in a sea of sirens… lost beneath the waves, but overtaken by calm… soon to be “long, long, gone.”

You won’t find a more beautiful record this year, full of uplifting sadness and hope. It is already my album of the year 2022! You can download it or buy the CD version on Bandcamp. Have a listen to this great record, particularly if you like Mark Hollis, Talk Talk, David Sylvian, Scott Walker, and Graham Domain. This wonderful record is deserving of a much wider audience.

Bambara  ‘Love On My Mind’

Bambara hail from Athens, Georgia, but have all the street punk attitude of the dark side of New York, where they now reside. Like one of the street gangs from the film The Warriors they possess a cool menace and visceral charm.

Musically they are a strange mixture of The Birthday Party, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Lou Reed, New Model Army, Swans, The Telescopes and The Modern Lovers. Big guitars, driving bass, machine-like drumming give them an 80’s Goth vibe but with a low-life reality and fighting spirit.

Reid Bateh sounds like a young Nick Cave, full of energy and bite but with a drawling vocal more akin to Lou Reed on speed, cranked really high!

The new six song EP has energy in abundance, great literate songs full of imagery and fire, the shadow of death close by. A band set to burn bright live fast and die in a blaze of glory! See them on tour this spring before they’re gone!

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