GAGARIN: Biophilia (Geo Records)


Posted on Jul 4th 2011 12:22 am

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Gagarin: Geofilia

Geo Recoords 2011
11 Tracks. 50mins11secs

Amazon UK: CD | DLD US: CD | DLD Boomkat: CD | DLD iTunes: DLD

Not to be mistaken with Björk current monumental project of the same name, Biophilia is Gagarin’s fifth album, and follows recent K3KA-3/KEDR digital EP, which was released five days after the fiftieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human being to orbit around the Earth. The two tracks, named after the code number of his spacecraft and his personal call sign respectively, the latter also featuring actual recordings of Gagarin’s flight communication, are also featured on this latest record, with which Gagarin (the musician) returns to his characteristically bare atmospheric electronica and continues in his attempt to establish a connection between nature and urban sprawls.

Gagarin is the solo project of Graham Dowdall, a drummer and percussionist who has played with a number of formations over the years, was a long term collaborator with Nico, and has in recent years been a member of electro-pop outfit Raf & O, who released their debut album last year, and began a collaborative project with Rothko’s Mark Beazley. With his outputs as Gagarin, Dowdall has been exploring stark atmospheric electronic landscapes

While Biophilia feels extremely electronic, its range extending from ambient soundscapes to dubsteb-infused beats, Gagarin’s concern with the world that surrounds him is emphasized by the use of field recordings which, in this case were collected in the nature reserve of Pagham Harbour, in Sussex, and in the urban surroundings of Dowdall’s South London neigbourhood. These contrasting settings clearly defines the main poles of this album. On one side is the overall atmospheric set up of tracks such as Pripyat a piece as desolate and devoid of life as the ghost town situated near Chernobyl from which it takes its name, the micro-treatment of Wanderlust or Galanthus or the hypnotic swirls of Last Child In The Woods. On the other, Dowdall injects violent seismic rhythmic shocks into his tracks, from the seriously fragmented beat of Dunnock, the slow-burning grooves of 3KA-3 and KEDR or the electric influx on Third Rail, Carbon Flux or Chalybeate. Behind these though Dowdall often retains much of the ambient textures found elsewhere. 3KA-3 opens with an extensive beat-less section before a syncopated beat and a heavy bass take over, while later on, Third Rail displays an ever-changing sound wave caught up in the almost constant assault of electronic percussions. Things occasionally take a bleaker turn, especially on the shadowy KEDR or Carbon Flux, their respective soundscapes being kept to minimal electronic textures and elementary bass sounds.

Like its predecessors, Biophilia can be a difficult record to get into, and it actually occasionally feels as if it doesn’t flow quite as well as Adaptogen or Ard Nev. While the contrast between ambient and urban structures is a key element in Gagarin’s music, there is perhaps a tad too much emphasis on creating distinct areas throughout, which at times distract from the overall aspect of the record.


Gagarin | Gagarin (MySpace) | Geo Records
Amazon UK: CD | DLD US: CD | DLD Boomkat: CD | DLD iTunes: DLD

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