Posted on Jan 7th 2009 12:14 am
Geo Records 2008
10 Tracks. 51mins07secs
Adaptogen: noun (in herbal medicine) a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress (Oxford English Dictionary).
Nature doesn’t stamp much of a mark on Gagarin’s latest effort, but, like in previous outputs, the music combines wonderful spacious ambient tones and occasional crisp urban beats to form dense dreamy soundscapes which are undoubtedly designed to soothe both body and mind.
Gagarin’s Graham Dowball began his career as a drummer, playing in a number of formations as well as with the likes of Nico, John Cale and Bill Pritchard, amongst others. For the last ten years, he has been a pretty permanent fixture with Pere Ubu, as a remixer, sound designer and keyboard player, but it is a very different scope that he’s explored with Gagarin in the last twelve years, perfecting his own blend of hypnotic electronics and dispatching them on occasional twelve inches and four albums, pretty much all released on his own imprint, Geo Records.
Adaptogen sees Dowball pushing further into vast atmospheric landscapes, creating peaceful and elegant sequences where gossamer melodies are wrapped in warm and vaporous electronic waves rippled by arid rhythmic patterns and obscure infra-bass. But Dowball’s music is not all pretty appearance and no substance. Behind the elegant facades and gentle melodic flourishes hide deeper undertones which resonate through the whole album, in various forms, from the highly polished gloss of opening track Phormium or, later, Gavvers to the almost urban angle of ‘Den Bosch or Fila and the gritty glitch textures of Aconite. It is however with the much smoother and ethereal Ab Plas that the album reaches its peak. The piece originally appears lost in the meanders of shapeless ambient, but when the disparate analogue sound waves gather, the track is suddenly bathed in bright warm lights and becomes for a moment a vivid kaleidoscope of contrasting hues.
A fine piece of modern atmospheric electronica, Adaptogen continues on from Gagarin’s past work, never totally breaking the mould or going for new direction, but ploughing the same groove deeper to unearth new nutriments. The result is a truly mature record which impresses quietly.