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14 May 2011

Commuters (Amphibious)

This is one of the more obscure entries from the Dagmarverse, by which I mean the spiraling discography of the great Dagmar Krause. Commuters is a trio of her + Ronald Heiloo and Harold Schellinx, and it's a 45rpm concept-EP, with ten songs telling the stories of abstract, well, commuters, I guess. We learn about 'The Architect', 'The Poet', etc - with pretty much all of the music being electric piano played in various styles. It's a pretty great idea and it works well; the songwriting is full of strange chord changes, weird modes, and sudden tempo changes, yet Dagmar manages to convey something direct and beautiful despite the "classical avant-garde" nature. Commuters is a playful record - 'The Gentleman on the Stairs' bounces around like a cat with a ball of yarn, always elusive. Her Kurt Weill influence is pretty apparent here, both in the melodic inflections and in the way these are all narratives, and this of course reminds me of Art Bears, specifically The World As It Is Today - almost like these could be Art Bears demos, if Frith and Cutler were to sketch tunes on piano. 'The Man on the Island' is built around a swirling cloud of Cecil Taylor toneclusters, while others are very minimal on the piano - 'The Philosopher' is just a few errant notes to prevent a-capella, and 'The Priest' is barely there at all. Schellinx wrote all of the lyrics and this feels like a one-off fun project, though the notes indicate that it took about a week to record. My copy, unlike this photo I found, doesn't have any text on it, making it a mysterious, Residents-like object that I was delighted to find in a yard sale years ago (really!).

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