Monday, September 18, 2006

GAGARIN: Ard Nev [Version 2.0] (Geo Records)

GAGARIN
Ard Nev
GEO009
Geo Records 2006
09 Tracks. 42mins39secs





Gagarin | Filament Recordings

Gagarin is the solo project of Graham Dowdall, whose career as a musician extends far beyond this project. Originally a percussionist and sound designer, he has played with some of the biggest names on the music scene, including Nico, John Cale, Cabaret Voltaire and many more, has worked on a variety of dance and theatre projects and has performed all around the world.

He began developing his electronic/ambient project Gagarin in the mid nineties and set up his own record label, Geo Records at the same time. He released a first self-titled album in 1997, and, following a series of EPs and seven-inch singles, his second album, Earthling, materialised in 2003. Since, there has been very little apparent activity on the Gagarin front, but Dowdall began to work on new material in the latter part of 2005, a first draft of the album originally being released as a very limited edition CDR album on U-Cover in early 2006 while he continued to work on the record. This third album, now released on Geo, sees Dowdall stepping up the pace and sharpening up his atmospheric electronica to include elements of urban dub, even occasionally hinting at dubstep, giving Ard Nev more defined and progressive structures than its predecessor displayed.

For this latest project, Dowdall deploys once again a wide array of sonic tricks and generates warm pastoral soundscapes on which he builds sparse melodic themes. Relying on Spartan rhythmic arrangements to underline these, Dowdall draw the listening into a false feeling of security before inflicting random electric blows, characteristically delivered without prior warning. While Ard Nev kicks off in gentle style with the vast open space of Sandavore, Dirty Sweet unveils a much darker and claustrophobic setting, which is carried on to the following piece, Neovo 5-10, which despite a peaceful respite in the middle, proves to be as oppressive. Echoes of grime and dubstep scratch the sparkling surface as abrasive noises are pushed to the forefront. Merkage and Slewage build further on this urban affiliation and push the album into some rather inhospitable territories.

Elsewhere, Dowdall delivers subtler, gentler pieces, allowing for vast breathing spaces in between more abrupt moments. Tracks such as 120 Cms, An Tarbet or Skylon, one of the standout moments here, all combine wonderful sonic scopes with intricate details and sporadic melodies, while on Sullum Voe and Buidaig, Dowdall carves more defined melodies cast in superb ethereal soundscapes, bringing this album to a rather elegant close.

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