Rob Gould — Dome I
Rob Gould — Dome II
With 15 solo albums released since the mid-nineties, keyboard player and composer Rob Gould is far from a newcomer to the prog scene. Yet I hadn't heard his music before, neither his numerous solo albums nor albums of his former bands Fula, Ashtar and Some Strange Quarters.
The reason I picked this album from the review list was because of the intriguing description of the album's background that mentioned a lot of different activities and different styles.
Another reason was that this new album is available on its own but also in a 2CD set alongside a remastered version of his first Dome album released 15 years ago. That album was partly recorded live in the University of Derby Dome in Buxton, England and partly in the studio. I thought it would be a good to listen to them in chronological order.
Little did I know what to expect when I put the Dome I album into my CD player. It turned out to be a long, very ambient instrumental piece of work, reminding me strongly of Tangerine Dream, the late Klaus Schulze, a bit of Enya and the movie scores by Clannad.
During the first 30 minutes hardly anything happens apart from long, long single notes creating an atmosphere of calmness and tranquillity. It's the kind of music that seems fit for meditation or other spiritual exercises, but I find it hard to really listen to as music. It simply doesn't intrigue because so little happens musically.
After half an hour, a soft synth motive emerges that tingles an Oldfield inspiration. There are some chants and threatening synth chords followed by a simple piano coda. The piece seems to have reached its end but that is not the case. After some very soft, low drone sounds and chanting singing, synths and piano alternate in creating a spooky atmosphere and playing a subtle musical melody. The piano sounds very fine (because of the audio quality in the Dome?) but it doesn't last long. A last synth chord and it is all over.
I was less than impressed with this first Dome album and because of my low appreciation, I became a bit worried what I should think of Dome II, the new one.
My worries proved wrong, for the Dome II album is far more interesting for numerous reasons.
As with the first, Dome II is one long instrumental track lasting slightly more than three quarters of an hour. This time Gould played all the instruments himself but the set doesn't give any clue as to what these instruments were.
Although the piece is divided into four parts, in effect Gould uses the Oldfield method to record one long song with just one title. Thankfully, this time he has built in several musical breaks into this long piece, thus offering different moods, themes and melodies which makes the album quite attractive. And although it isn't ground-breaking or highly innovative, this is a pleasant listen throughout, with elements of Mike Oldfield as well as Anthony Phillips, Kitaro, Enya, and even Pink Floyd.
The piece starts with a pleasant synth melody backed by drums, a feature which was nowhere to be heard on the first Dome album. That alone makes this piece more of a song, more musical than the extended soundscape that Dome I primarily is. The melody flows and floats smoothly, never reaching a real high-point but containing enough subtle variations to remain attractive to listen to.
Just after four minutes, the music develops into an almost, but not entirely, chaotic break with hints of Hawkwind and Ozric Tentacles. Just before things become too a-melodic, the piano picks up a new theme and the tranquillity returns without becoming dull. There are some distorted wordless vocals, a choir-like vocal part, many synth themes flowing into each other and above all a feeling of relaxation that reminded me of the synth pieces by Anthony Phillips. Not too complicated, nice to listen to, far from extreme or technical showing off, just fine soundscapes forming a varied musical trip.
After almost half an hour, a rather simple but beautiful soft piano melody introduces the final part of the piece, starting off with a threatening soundscape without much musicality, leading towards distorted synths. A pulsating synth theme in a Tangerine Dream vein leads the way to long synth chords with wind sounds in the background.
During the last five minutes the electronic music reminded me heavily of the Le Parc by Tangerine Dream, an album I really like. Marching drums and a saxophone sound add to the variation before a soft organ introduces the coda. The last two minutes are filled with a long synth chord accompanied by rather chaotic sounds that slowly fade away. Not the most original end of a song, but it does fit the overall mood.
According to the extensive notes that accompany the release of this 2CD set, Gould mixed unrecorded pieces of the 2007 recording sessions into this second part. For the listener it is impossible to verify this but it explains the connection between the two pieces.
I think it is very nice that an artist gets the opportunity to re-work old pieces of music into new music. For me this second part shows foremost that during the last 15 years Gould's composing skills of long instrumentals have developed well. Dome II is more musical than the first part and may therefore reach a wider audience. That the listener can witness this development is a treat, thanks to the record company and the artist.
For those who like the aforementioned artists, this album will be very attractive. I don't think I will return to Dome I often but Dome II will certainly frequent my player.