Switched On – Dominik Eulberg: Mannigfaltig (!K7)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Few musicians can claim to have received an ‘Outstanding Contribution’ award from the UN Decade of Biodiversity.

Yet as you soon find out from the packaging around this release, Dominik Eulberg’s Mannigfaltig is not just any other project.

It is a musical and artistic plea for recognition. Recognition that although we are custodians of some weird and wonderful species here on earth, we might not be for too much longer if things don’t change.

A multi media release, Mannigfaltig (meaning manifold, diverse) combines twelve musical portraits of colourful species with a pack of cards featuring a pair of each of those animals, and an intricate video – another award winner – paying homage to the colourful mayfly on the single Eintagsfliege. The cover art is beautifully realised too, the animal portraits laid out in the shape of a ‘play’ symbol. Eulberg may have been eight years away from the albums game, but he has clearly given his return some thought.

What’s the music like?

Eulberg’s work is of intricate construction but colourful output, rather like the species he portrays.

If you were listening without any knowledge of the album’s subject, you would pick out the opening Eintagsfliege, the Mayfly, as a sublime sunrise moment. Eulberg uses the rich timbre of the lower register of the piano to make a piece of music that stops the listener in their tracks, especially once the clipped beats kick in.

As the album progresses, and Eulberg profiles moths, butterflies, birds and dormice, the little twists and turns make for a really substantial set of tracks. After the beautiful mayfly, Zweibrütiger Scheckenfalter (Meadow Fritillary) has a wavy profile with a glockenspiel at the top end, a tactic Eulberg often employs. Fünffleck-Widderchen (New Forest burnet-moth) plays subtly with the pulse, using some darker shades, while another moth, Sechslinien-Bodeneule, puts its foot down. Siebenschläfer (Dormouse) comes out as a persuasive anthem in waiting, a feel good moment, while Goldene Acht, a pale-clouded yellow butterfly builds its layers to a rich swathe of colour.

As the album moves on the music gets weightier. Neuntöter, a Red-backed shrike, brings out the heavier gear, and then the really substantial Zehnpunkt-Marienkäfer, at 11 minutes, its blissful, warm chords backing another clipped beat glockenspiel, ending in suspension with the delicacy of the chimes.

Does it all work?

Yes, and despite the album’s length it has enough light and shade, fast and slow, to work. The craft behind the music is considerable, but so is the emotion, Eulberg using harmonies that pull gently but insistently at the heartstrings. Throwing in a few genuine anthemic moments at the end with tougher beats completes the deal.

Is it recommended?

Yes – another very fine addition to the Dominik Eulberg discography, Mannigfaltig is his most meaningful album yet, and contains some genuinely memorable music.

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