Ed Dowie first appeared on our radar when he supported Serafina Steer at the launch of her “The Mind Is A Trap” album. I was utterly floored by his performance. His onstage charisma and his unique setup, almost like an electronic one man band, were captivating. Then there’s the music itself.
‘The Obvious I’ is Dowie’s second album, released via Needle Mythology.
It’s a collection of songs that absolutely sparkles throughout. Dowie’s vocal delivery is soft and angelic, with multi-layered harmonies. The opening “Then Send Them” sees stabbed string chords, cavernous space, fizzing electronic touches and a keyboard with multiple personalities. It builds and warps magnificently and invites us into Dowie’s sound world.
Title track “The Obvious I” is a little more straight forward. The heavy slap of the electronic drum beat and simple bassline are like a beautiful hidden keyboard demo. This sets the platform for some absolutely gorgeous layered harmonies and magical 80s synth lines. In the expanse of melody there are clear links between Dowie’s approach and that of the aforementioned Steer.
Dowie has a keen ear for mixing sounds. The percussive keys that introduce “Red Stone” are complemented by a distant tight staccato bassline, and an unusual atmospheric mix that sets Dowie’s voice firmly in the foreground. “How Light I” is a beautiful short waltz that mixes found sounds and loose, clanging string sounds. It pits lo-fi and high fidelity sounds right up against each other. The melody, again, is stunning.
“Number Eight Wire” is the most poppy song to this point. It’s a Hen Ogledd-esque exercise in 80s synth pop, although Dowie’s vocal continues to give the song a wide open feel.
The instrumental “Under The Waves” is a spacious and meditative piece of cinematic quality for the first three minutes before Dowie eventually joins. It’s absolutely haunting and has an almost Brian Wilson-like (Smile) quality. “Dear Florence” continues the atmospheric quality that runs right through the album.
While the songs don’t meld into each other, the album seems to effortlessly flow.
Dowie embraces the waltz again in the dark and bold “The Island”. The song is fabulously produced and seems to amalgamate everything that has come before it. A textural masterclass. Whilst “The Island” might have been a fitting ending, there’s time for one more treat in “Robot Joy Army”. The name is befitting of the machine-like bassline and chunky beats. With the way this combines with Dowie’s vocal performance it almost comes across like a remix.
’The Obvious I’ is, quite simply, a sensational record. A masterclass in atmospherics and melody. A sound world to repeatedly explore and get lost in.
‘The Obvious I’ is out now via Needle Mythology.
You may enjoy this if you like: Serafina Steer, Julia Holter, Hen Ogledd, Bas Jan