reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
People On Sunday is the soundtrack to the 1930 film of the same name (also known as Menschen am Sonntag, Les Hommes le Dimanche and People On Sunday). Dominique Dumont was commissioned to write the score for the Les Arcs film festival in 2019, where it was given a live performance. The film follows a group of characters going about their business in Weimar-era Berlin over one weekend, showing normal life in Germany before dictatorship
He took a great deal from the experience, documenting on his Bandcamp page how the film itself ‘strengthened my belief that the time we currently live in, although far from perfect, might be the best time to be alive’. That was before the Coronavirus pandemic, obviously, but a certain truth still rings true in his observation that, ‘we are living in a utopia compared to what came before and, perhaps, what is to come’.
What’s the music like?
Dumont’s music has the construction of a spider’s web, in that it has a fragile and graceful exterior but is held together with very solid musical elements. It also conforms to his optimistic outlook, with airy textures and delicate tones.
The twinkling lights of Arrival set the scene beautifully, using a minimal loop but expanding into droplets of melody up above. Where this track is cool, Water Theme (Le Château de Corail) has warmth through what sounds like steel pans.
Elsewhere the mood is blissful but closer inspection reveals the detail Dumont applies to every aspect of his work. The small but intricate melodic cells have consonant harmonies but feel as though they are providing light in relative darkness, finding calm and order away from hustle and bustle.
Rituals is especially good at this, panning out to find meditative calm, while We Almost Got Lost settles quickly into a trance, underwritten by a soft, bossa nova rhythm. Falling Asleep Under Pine Trees flickers with enchanting but restful activity, while Merry-Go-Round is charming and could easily run for double its duration on the brightly lit and closely woven parts Dumont brings forward. Watching Boats Pass By is as relaxing as the title suggests it should be,
Does it all work?
Yes. The music can easily be enjoyed as an album, independent of the moving images or even with other, more natural backdrops. Listening in a quiet space or on headphones brings out all of the individual elements employed, but these can also be listened to as a whole, setting the right, contemplative mood.
Is it recommended?
Yes. People On Sunday is a rather beautiful piece of work, shimmering in the half light and casting a spell on its listeners.