Dolman (Inflexion Point)
An album of juxtapositions, this debut from Dolman is a curious beast. This is big music, widescreen in scope, extremely ambitious, and consciously ‘visual’ in its qualities; yet it also comes imbued with a very personal sense of place. Scott Hendy and Ben Salisbury are well-respected figureheads within a broad Bristol musical community; Hendy with the Domino Records-approved Malachai, and Salisbury alongside Geoff Barrow in DROKK, and for his esteemed soundtrack work. And while this album seeks to span ages and spaces, the duo’s hometown is the defining theme throughout.
Salisbury’s stamp is felt hard from the opening bars of the their first collaborative record. Tales from the Gate is an immediate, imposing soundscape, recalling fellow Bristolian Hyetal’s most dystopian furrows. It’s hugely impressive, as is the track which follows; the heartbreaking The Rainbow, built around a sparse piano progression, eked-out ambience, and a sublime cameo from vocalist Adele Emmas. But these two tracks – their qualities, and their contrasts – act as a microcosm for the album. Hendy and Salisbury are prodigiously talented, and their exercises in sonic muscle-flexing are just as impressive as the tangible ‘songs’ on offer. The guest vocalists are impeccable too; Bristol perfect-pipes-for-hire Alison Garner of The Fauns swoons and sighs over Flight 22, while Crybaby’s contribution to the two- part On Stony Ground makes for an addictive exercise in trip-hop swing, with the kind of muted glamour of early Portishead.
But while the 11 tracks on offer are connected by a rich, sonorous thread, it’s difficult to sink your teeth into as a coherent feature-length when the scene, and the lighting, and the actors keep changing with such regularity. Not so much a soundtrack to an invisible film then; more the sonic accompaniment to a collection of enthralling shorts.
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Words: Rachel Mann