Rob Dougan: Furious Angels [2001]

Posted: April 11, 2011 in Reviews, Rob Dougan
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Apologies for the lack of reviews for a few day – I’ve been sweating my way through final essays and the prospect of writing an album review at the end of a frantic, terrified day has been a pretty upsetting concept for me. This is an album recommended to me by my friend Roz, same one that recommended I do Syriana’s Road To Damascus. We were discussing the Matrix Soundtrack and I mentioned I like ‘Clubbed To Death’ on it, when she said to give the source album a listen.

If you’ve heard ‘Clubbed To Death’, then much of this album will be pretty familiar-sounding to you – classical-tinged, dramatic, bassy techno that is a good deal more intelligent than others in the genre. The first song on the album, other than the introduction, is ‘Furious Angels’. It’s really interesting, it has lots of different phases and layers that all kind of melt into one another to form a rich, textured sound that sounds a little dramatic, a little melodramatic. The next song, ‘Will You Follow Me’, bears out this description, although there is far less techno in this one, leaving me to wonder if the Mr. Dougan isn’t just a classical artist in disguise. I don’t like the music, to be honest, when there’s not real evidence of him doing something with the classical side of his sound.

‘Left Me For Dead’ is a cool song though. A simple bassline, some soaring strings and some growled vocals all get involved and create a really moody, introspective sound that, while being quite gloomy, is raised by the passion that Dougan inserts into his singing, as well as the echoes that he occasionally chucks in. There’s some thing about the way he sings ‘You left me for dead’ and the echo goes ‘for dead, for dead, left me for dead’. The song simmers along for a few verse, and then really catches fire with the addition of a piano and some slightly more intense mixing. It’s really cool, I can imagine it in a film – anything other than The Matrix would be a bit of a push though. ‘I’m Not Driving Anymore’ is really similar to the previous one, with the addition of some ‘Clubbed To Death’-style staccato strings that add a kind of frantic hopelessness to the sound which I liked very much. It looks like, at this point, that ‘Will You Follow Me’ is a bit of a blip in Dougan’s music – he seems to like the combination of techno and classical more than just classical, which means he can be counted as me-friendly.

‘Clubbed To Death (Kuyaramino Version)’ is next, and although Spotify in their infinite wisdom made the track unavailable, I managed to track it down on my computer, so all is well. The addition of a woman singing ‘wo-eh-o-wah-a-ee’ in a high voice at the chorus brings some class to the already classy song. This song is ameliorated significantly by the frequent breakdowns and introduction of other instruments and sounds. The bassline and the drums act as a very useful anchor to this kind of experimentation. That said, the song is rigidly structured and feels incredibly tight.

The next one, ‘There’s Only Me’ returns to the introspective feel of the earlier songs, being a really rather melodramatic and moody version of ‘Will You Follow Me’, whereas the one after that, ‘Instrumental’, predictably irritates me. It’s not that the music isn’t well-written, it’s more that I’d just like this guy to pick a fucking side. Don’t give me music I really enjoy in the form of ‘Clubbed To Death’ and then follow it up with two pieces that are completely and utterly removed from the tone, style, origin, emotion etc of that song. They just feel like they’ve been surgically inserted like a pair of silicon knockers. I mean why create a hybrid classical-techno vibe only to spoil it by cramming the album full of classical which, frankly, makes me think of the film ‘Bambi’.

Thankfully, Mr Dougan finally starts singing again in ‘Nothing At All’. This is good, because I was about to lose patience with him completely. You may have noticed. I really liked ‘Nothing At All’. It’s got nothing much in common with anything I’ve heard before, although it feels faintly contemporary. A gently cascading piano instils a great sense of calm. ‘Adult contemporary’ is probably how some unimaginative record-label manager has labelled the song. This, and the song after, ‘Born Yesterday’ are my two favourites on the album.

‘Speed Towards Death’ is, in my mind, the best example of what Dougan is going for. Racy violins, dramatic use of lyrics and bassline and a good bit of classical singing at the end. They could have used this one in The Matrix, it would have fitted perfectly. The penultimate ‘full’ song, ‘Drinking Song’ evokes some Tom Waits-esque melancholy that is rich in a kind of, believe it or not, ‘sing-when-drunk-ability’. It would really be something to hear a whole football stadium sing this song – not so much because it’s anthemic, it’s just got a great, almost Irish sense of what is good in a drinking song. Sadness and hope. Nice.

There then comes a sort of musical break/intro to the last song, ‘Pause’. It’s pretty much just a sort of classical warm-up to ‘The One and the Same’, which is the final track on what’s been an interesting album. It’s pretty much like most of the others, to be honest, but it merits a listen because it absolutely oozes class that borders on the artificial. I mean, it’s so tight and polished, it sort of feels like a sad boyband song. I know, it’s a bit of a headfuck to be honest.


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