Switched On – Eumig: 23 (Courier Sound)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

A fascinating challenge lies behind this album. Recently Courier Sound released an album of 23 tracks in 23 minutes by their artist Alien (aka Alastair Johnson), and it was so successful that label head Stuart Bowditch decided to set the same challenge for Eumig, aka Nick Dawson.

Given Dawson’s preference for working with drawn out structures, this needed a change of approach – akin to asking Schoenberg to write wearing Webern’s hat. He has responded with a set of musical postcards that meet the brief and create a very concentrated piece of work.

What’s the music like?

Fascinating and extremely varied. Dawson has in effect created a single work by taking the small cells and knitting them together. The music moves between the ideas logically, and flits between intimate asides and much bigger textures, the camera panning out to take in enormous vistas.

Each minute has its own important part to play, but highlights include the distinctive sighing motif of Law Of Diminishing Returns, then the glitchy pair of Electronic Communication and Audio Lingual Acquisition, introducing a sharper edge to proceedings. Worship Of Heavely Bodies is appropriately stellar, while the friendly signals of Primary Colours are nicely placed. Pteroylmonoglutamic Acid (easy for you to say!) has a big presence, like a large assembly of machinery grinding into action.

Does it all work?

Yes. There are some extremely concentrated ideas here, many of which could easily run for much longer and carry the same intensity. The tapestry is woven in a compelling fashion however, Eumig’s thoughts logical to follow but also taking a few unexpected turns.

Is it recommended?

Yes. 23 is a great idea for a challenge to throw down to a composer, and for someone used to composing in much longer forms Nick Dawson handles the shorter form with aplomb. It will be interesting to see what effect this form of working has on his output in the future.



Playlist – Courier Sounds

It gives us great pleasure to welcome Courier Sounds to Arcana’s steadily growing playlist section.

Courier Sounds, whose Silhouette Cameo 3 LP was released in October, also did a mix to celebrate their ninth year as a label. It’s compiled by Stuart Bowditch who has previously contributed to the Essex Sound and Video Archive (which can be found here, The British Library, Cities and Memory and The Field Recording Archive.

Begins with the space-style intercom of Eumig’s The Cassegrain but soon broadens out into the sonorous, held notes of Lunar’s Oscillate that waver very slightly – and very pleasantly – in pitch. Lachrylic’s Ellipse is more noise based, with sharp tones that have a sinister undertone, but Bowditch flips the switch, changing the outlook dramatically with ambient but penetrating midrange tones.

I won’t tell you what happens from there on, but safe to say this is a mix that evolves like one continuous note, changing its sonorities in really interesting ways throughout. An intense form of ambience, which really focuses the mind.

The tracklisting is:

Eumig – The Cassegrain
Hybernation – Ptolemy Cluster
Lunar – Oscillate
Lachrylic – Ellipse
Bowditch & Kipps – Proscenium
Silences – (Everyone) Turns To The Wall
Viridian – Cathedral Speech
Belly Full Of Stars – skipandwow
Bowditch – Being
Isnaj Dui – Sunspot Loop 4
Furrows – The Disappearance Of The Things We Loved
Gagarin – Holmbury Hillfort
Wil Bolton – Anguk
((((((PALINDROMES)))))) – Shy
Eumig – F = 2.0 x
Sonicslice – HR2491
Eumig – Eugon A
Diacritical Mark – Lozenge
Graham Dunning – Bulkhead
Rainbow Valley – First Light
Alien – Perimeter (Live 28/11/2017)
Bowditch – Saturday