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Jonh Dowland/ Matthias Engelke - Resonant Dowland [ Gruenrekorder - 2021]

Now, this is something rather different from German field recording/ sound art label Gruenrekorder- an album’s worth of modern/ 
avant-garde takes on songs from the Renaissance period, created by the use of male tenor vocalising and experimental electronics. All making for an album that very much feels like it’s in its own strange reality- somewhere between the 16th century and glitched-up future.

The release appears in the form of a twelve-track CD. It’s presented in a four-panel digipak, which features a thirty-six-page booklet- that takes in a blend of moody, if abstract photos, and the full texts for the songs. So as we’ve come to expect from the Gruenrekorder, a nice arty presentation.

Matthias Engelke is a German composer and sound artist, who has been active Since the early 2000s.  His work is often based around experienced or imagined interaction between music and sound with a physical space or concert space. Along with this, he homes on the interaction between music/sound and dance/movement- influencing both the textural and sonic qualities of his sound art. In recent years, he’s used live electronics in his music performances- with a lot of his work falling in the field of dance and theatre productions. As far as I can gather via Discogs(I know it’s not always accurate) Dowland is his first release, and if that is the case this is most impressive.

All the tracks here are reworkings of tracks by Irish 16th-century composer John Dowland (1563 –1626), who is known most for his more melancholic compositions/ songs. The twelve original tracks here date from between the late 1500s and early 1600s, though as you can imagine with the use of electronic textures & treatments, they sound rather different, though the tenor work is largely authentic, and sounds of the period.

The twelve tracks have runtimes between two and eleven minutes, and they are varied enough in their pace/ blend of elements. We go from lighting knocking to escalating beat craft, low-key stabbing-to-sudden darting electro texturing and bass drill of “ Sorrow, Stay”. Onto sustained synth whine-meets-glumly bowed string and distant ping-pong beat-work of “Go Crystal Tears”. Through to the more rapid and almost jiving vocal cadence of “White As Lilies Was Her Face”, with its blend of clip-clopping & hissing beat work, reduced bass groove, and waving & woozy synth vibes & sampled clunking percussion.

Resonant Dowland is certainly not what one normally expects from Gruenrekorder, and it’s great to see the label expanding the type of release they put out. All told it’s an album that mangers to blend together convincing and effectively the 16th century with more experimental, though largely structured and atmospheric electronic treatments.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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