Rob Dougan – Misc. Sessions

From 2016 through 2019, Rob Dougan – an artist who had been absent since making a splash in the early 2000s when instrumental versions of some his music were included in key scenes of The Matrix Reloaded – resurfaced in the crowdfunded music arena to see if there was support for him to make new music. With Dougan, whose signature style is to add his rough-and-ready, almost-spoken-word vocals to a string section and either a live drummer or a drum machine, this was going to take a bit of investment from his fans. (As someone who enjoyed Dougan’s previous solo effort, Furious Angels, I was one of those pitched in.) The result was a series of EPs, released as the songs were recorded two, three, or four at a time.

The Misc. Sessions was my runaway favorite of this series of EPs. It’s the one that bears the most resemblance to Furious Angels in its lyrics and music, and it forms a kind of short, bittersweet song cycle unto itself, chronicling either the end of a relationship or perhaps the simultaneous end of several relationships. “She’s Leaving” is pretty self-explanatory, a kind of musical travelogue of what’s left of a home once shared by two, name-checking the things that she deemed unimportant enough to leave behind as reminders.

But the next two songs, “Undone By London” and “Open Sore”, are the real heart of the song cycle, dealing with the aftermath of what was described in the previous song. These two songs flow together nearly seamlessly – one begins in the same key and the same chord with which the other ends – and Dougan’s vocal delivery in “Undone” borders on unhinged the further he gets into the song. “Open Sore” is a bit more calm and accepting of what’s happened, but still darkly bittersweet. “Miscellaneous” is a bit more light-hearted, catching up with where she winds up next, and then we revisit the unhinged anguish of “Undone By London”…by playing it backward as a kind of twisted coda.

If Dougan’s voice doesn’t do it for you – which I get, his tuneful-but-about-as-smooth-as-sandpaper delivery is an acquired taste – the entire song is then repeated in two forms: instrumental (everything except Dougan’s voice and any backing vocals) and “orchestra only” (eliminating not just vocals, but drums, piano and other more conventional “band” instruments). These repeated tracks boost the EP to LP length, while also offering those interested a chance to study Dougan’s orchestral writing and arranging more closely. (It’s here that you really get a feel for how seamlessly “Undone By London” segues into “Open Sore”.)

4 out of 4It’s a lovely package, though for me the appeal is…I really like the songs. They hit me at a time when I myself was recovering from being undone (though not in London), from walking into a home that was suddenly empty of other people, and this little abbreviated song cycle helped me work through some of that. There may have even been a few cathartic, bloodletting singalongs – you’d have to ask my cats.

Order this CD

  1. She’s Leaving (4:19)
  2. Undone By London (4:27)
  3. Open Sore (4:58)
  4. Miscellaneous (3:53)
  5. Undone By London (Reprise) (4:01)
  6. She’s Leaving (Instrumental) (4:03)
  7. Undone By London (Instrumental) (4:25)
  8. Open Sore (Instrumental) (4:59)
  9. Miscellaneous (Instrumental) (3:56)
  10. Undone by London (Orchestral only) (4:02)
  11. Open Sore (Orchestral only) (4:40)
  12. Miscellaneous (Orchestral only) (3:51)

Released by: Rob Dougan
Release date: October 23, 2016
Total running time: 51:34

Rob Dougan – The 22nd Sunday In Ordinary Time Sessions

The 22nd Sunday In Ordinary Time SessionsIf you’re a fan of the music from The Matrix trilogy, you’re probably a fan of Rob Dougan without realizing it: the first movie’s music for the woman in the red dress, The Matrix Reloaded‘s scenery-destroying all-out melee in a museum-like space – basically, where you heard almost James-Bond-cool strings overlaid with a trip-hop techno beat, that was Rob Dougan, an Australian DJ whose work had gained a cult following nearly a decade before The Matrix hit theaters.

But Dougan has always had more artsy ambitions: sampled strings aren’t good enough for him. That’s the theory behind this EP, which continues his neo-classical (no Matrix pun intended) fusion experiments. The 22nd Sunday In Ordinary Time Sessions see Dougan’s compositions played by a real orchestra: “Frescobaldi’s Toccata” is stately, “Vale (Ave Atque Vale)” and “A Drawing-Down of Blinds-Valedico” are sedate, while the more driving “The Return” is presented both with and without a drum overlay. There are no lead vocals on any of the songs; this is a strictly instrumental (and occasionally choral) experience.

4 out of 4This is the first we’ve heard of Dougan since his knockout 2004 solo album Furious Angels, and hopefully it isn’t the last – indeed, he’s working on a full album even as his fans listen to The 22nd Sunday In Ordinary Time Sessions and ponder how much he’s been missed. This is classy, retro-cinematic cool at its finest.

Order this CD

    Frescobaldi’s Toccata (Orchestral Session) (4:38)
    Vale (Ave Atque Vale) (Orchestral Session) (4:46)
    The Return (Orchestral Session) (5:02)
    A Drawing-Down of Blinds-Valedico (Orchestral Session) (6:24)
    The Return (Orchestral Session) (Alternative Mix) (5:00)

Released by: robdougan.com
Release date: May 9, 2015
Total running time: 25:50

Rob Dougan – Furious Angels

Rob Dougan - Furious AngelsIt seems like a lot of remix maestros have been bursting onto the scene as solo artists lately – Moby, BT, Fatboy Slim, you name it – but few of them have as unique a sound as Australian Rob Dougan sports on his debut album. Having put his unique spin on the works of a number of artists including Kylie Minogue, Dougan discovered a whole new unexpected audience when one of his songs was used very briefly in The Matrix. Remember the “lady in the red dress” training scene where Morpheus demonstrates the dangers of the Agents to Neo? The low-key atmospheric menace leading into that scene is a short excerpt from Dougan’s “Clubbed To Death” single. When The Matrix exposed Dougan’s song to not just a new audience or two, but rabid new audiences, he wisely repeated the move by reworking another of his songs for the soundtrack of The Matrix Reloaded.

That song is “Furious Angels”, also the namesake of Dougan’s first solo collection, and it could hardly sound more different than the beat-heavy movie version (this version strips out everything except Dougan’s vocals and the orchestra). Yes, Rob Dougan sings on several of his songs, his lyrics veering between hope and vengeful spurned love, and his delivery darting from a style I’d describe as “Dylan does ENZSO” to a smoother approach that I describe as “Neil Diamond woke up with laryngitis and sang a big splashy James Bond theme song anyway.” Dougan is not a great vocalist, and when one considers that most of his songs are drenched with the sweet sound of an honest-to-God orchestral backing, his growly, rumbly vocals are even more incongruous. But when one listens to him singing the vengeful vows of “Left Me For Dead” and “Furious Angels”, or the world-weary “Speed Me Toward Death”, it somehow seems right that he didn’t hire someone with smoother pipes. “Speed Me Toward Death” is probably the catchiest of the vocal tracks on here, as it really encapsulates my earlier comment about someone gruff trying to croon a Bond theme – it’s grandiose, morbid, violent, and yet funny in its own bitterly ironic way. It’s also one of the more accessible tracks on Furious Angels, with some funktastic guitar work getting a word in edgewise amid the orchestral splendor. It’s about as close to a perfectly balanced song as Dougan gets here.

But Dougan isn’t all angst and darkness, as “One And The Same” proves. And perhaps the best piece of music on the entire album is the closing number, “Clubbed To Death II”, which bears little resemblance to the other track bearing that name, and musically speaking it’s far, far more interesting. It’s an instrumental with a strange kind of wistful, world-weary hope to it, and a lovely and deceptively quiet piano solo lulls you into a false sense of security that the song’s over. It’s a great little number that I wish was about two or three times rating: 4 out of 4longer than it is. And it proves, as does the rest of Furious Angels, one thing: Dougan is ready for a film scoring assignment of his own, not just riding shotgun with Don Davis. Hopefully someone who’s actually making a movie will pick up this hint too and put Dougan on the case, because I’m ready for more where this came from.

Order this CD

  1. Prelude (0:44)
  2. Furious Angels (6:09)
  3. Will You Follow Me (3:52)
  4. Left Me For Dead (4:41)
  5. I’m Not Driving Anymore (4:37)
  6. Clubbed To Death (7:28)
  7. There’s Only Me (5:39)
  8. Instrumental (4:27)
  9. Nothing At All (6:34)
  10. Born Yesterday (7:34)
  11. Speed Me Towards Death (4:34)
  12. Drinking Song (3:59)
  13. Pause (0:35)
  14. One & The Same (Coda) (5:46)
  15. Clubbed To Death II (3:48 – hidden track)

Released by: Cheeky / Warner Bros.
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 70:27