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Damien Dubrovnik
Great Many Arrows Maria Perevedentseva , July 20th, 2017 16:20

The latest from Damien Dubrovnik (aka Loke Rahbek and Christian Stadsgaard) marks the 200th release for their acclaimed Posh Isolation imprint. For many other labels, one imagines that a milestone of this nature, after only eight years in operation, would be marked by all manner of pomp and circumstance – limited edition releases, commemorative boxsets, tours and whatnot. With Great Many Arrows, however, the artwork continues with the tactile, 'found object' theme of 2015’s Vegas Fountain and the album clocks in at a modest 39 minutes. You get the impression that Damien Dubrovnik see no sense in commemorating (or immortalising) something which is still very much alive and kicking.

Musically, however, it is fair to say that Great Many Arrows does mark a watershed, for both Damien Dubrovnik and Posh Isolation. A sense of vastness pervades and there's a noticeable move away from the claustrophobic micro-focus of their earlier work. While the details are as meticulously executed as ever, they're integrated into a larger formal mould, and the narrative arc of the album echoes this transition. It begins with noise swells that churn your stomach, making you want to crawl out of your own skin, and unfolds into more cavernous soundscapes - a kind of glorious deep womb where those without skin can dwell. Like in Kafka’s The Burrow, we have moved from the passageways into Castle Keep, but 'the noise', alas, loses none of its threat.

Great Many Arrows was inspired by a temple and an historic archery competition in Kyoto, and the kind of space that Dubrovnik create here speaks to that: it is both tangibly real and mythically distant. Damien Dubrovnik create soundscapes that feel genuinely interactive, even when you're listening at home. 'Arrow 4' is the standout of the album (at least to these ears), evoking movement through the reverential din of church bells in Old Europa. Conceptually as well as sonically it feels uncannily similar to ‘Steel Church’ from Virile Games’ 2013 album Wounded Laurel.

Another stylistic development in Great Many Arrows is its use of acoustic instruments. This kind of cross-pollination all too often results in pastiche, gimmick and tokenism, but here Rahbek and Stadsgaard demonstrate keen ears for inventive timbral mixture. Harmonium and cello drones blend to create sounds which draw on the work of Sarah Davarchi and the late Pauline Oliveiros in ‘Arrow 6’, pizzicato strings morph into distortion swells, and in ‘Arrow 4’, the fluttering of flute keys provides balance to the clanging metals, whose decay timings are constantly changing and often delightfully stunted. ‘Arrow 5’, which did the rounds before release date, is the structural peak of the album, combining industrial’s signature distorted vocals with a lush, cinematic base and a descending melodic motif which signifies the plaintive, forlorn and achingly tender.

Great Many Arrows stands as a monument to the evolution of Posh Isolation from a weird and wild outpost for experimentation in the European North into a mature and decidedly global enterprise, and one that is still evolving.