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”.)
It’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.
- She’s Leaving (4:19)
- Undone By London (4:27)
- Open Sore (4:58)
- Miscellaneous (3:53)
- Undone By London (Reprise) (4:01)
- She’s Leaving (Instrumental) (4:03)
- Undone By London (Instrumental) (4:25)
- Open Sore (Instrumental) (4:59)
- Miscellaneous (Instrumental) (3:56)
- Undone by London (Orchestral only) (4:02)
- Open Sore (Orchestral only) (4:40)
- Miscellaneous (Orchestral only) (3:51)
Released by: Rob Dougan
Release date: October 23, 2016
Total running time: 51:34