Damien Dubrovnik serves as a sort of flagship project for Posh Isolation founders Loke Rahbek and Christian Stadsgaard; in a sense, Great Many Arrows stands as a steadfast marker for the label, the artists, and the project. Posh Isolation has made a name for itself as a purveyor of contemporary European experimental/noise, and this newest LP helps to further distill their efforts and aesthetic. This is by no means a reinvention, or a departure; if anything, Great Many Arrows represents a refocusing of their energy, and a wider acceptance of what this project aims to present.
This release predominantly features a number of acoustic sound sources, in place of electronics. Strings, organ, percussion, and brass all factor into these six compositions, which range from plaintive ambient structures to near orchestral walls of melancholic bombast. At times, this comes across more like a contemporary symphony than an album; each movement highlights different tonal ranges and sections. “Arrow 1” aside, the album is near cyclical, and can completely envelop the unfocused listener.
Despite a very uniform compositional quality and limited range of sound sources, Damien Dubrovnik manage to insert highlights of New Age (“Arrow 5”) and European folk (“Arrow 6”) music. This is—like so many other releases on Posh Isolation—a difficult piece of work to nail down. A single track can shift from near ecstatic levels of harmonic bombast, to tense aggression with a single beat of a drum (a timpani, if one had to guess). At points, the dense electronics, next to Rahbek’s quivering snarl, feels like a more emotional take on power electronics; vague politics eschewed for stoic ruminations on the vulgarity of sex, the violence of attraction, the transient nature of a human life.
“Arrow 1” is a piece which is both steadfastly of, and simultaneously at odds with, the album as a whole. Arguably, this is the strongest composition of the six tracks, blending acoustic and electronic sound sources together in a shimmering melange. Rahbek pulls his best vocal impression of Jamie Stewart (a complement of the highest order), when he shakily cries out:
She knows these rooms / she knows / all the walls / Even in the dark / Partly
because / She does not go out from there / She will stay / But she / She too will pass / Just like all great arrows / Pass / Fleeting the bow / That expects /
Great things from them / That is what they are meant to do
A continual klaxon-esque tone punctuates intermittently—a brass section played in reverse—over a barrier of warm synth tones, stringed instruments, deep singular drum hits. The composition swells like the best works of Mahler, or Pärt while structurally resembling some of the more late-era compositions from Scott Walker. “Arrow 1” drags one’s heart into a tug-of-war between elation and despair; the sensation of ending a toxic relationship, or pulling a rotting tooth free of the gums. The Portuguese have a similar term for this; Saudade, or “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.”1
“Arrow 1” is, in a sense, the abstract for the rest of the release. Herein is the outline of what follows, the distilled nature of the beast. Greater examination lies beyond, but for a paint-by-numbers image, the opener can be viewed as the template, the pattern, the scaffold, the skeleton. Admittedly, “Arrow 1” remained on repeat many times before venturing into the rest of the release. Even then, a percussive blow, or a motif on strings would harken back to “Arrow 1,” the first bolt fired across the bow, almost as if a memory.
None of the other five tracks carry the same sort of emotional density as “Arrow 1,” though they do possess a similar depth. Think of Great Many Arrows as a pool; imagine yourself as Ophelia, wading farther out, deeper, until the water is over your head.
Still they / Rush / To See her / Before the body / Turns into water / That morning / Great many arrows / Formed a flight / And / I formed / A cage / With my fingers / To hold you in (“Arrow 6”)
Great Many Arrows is, after repeatedly listening sessions, simultaneously harrowing and inspiring. Despite its overuse in general language, “melancholy” is entirely appropriate. Damien Dubrovnik have once again asserted themselves as a powerful, ingenuitive force in the contemporary “noise” world at large. This may not be a “perfect” release, but the time spent listening—actively—will be rewarded by the nuances of these six compositions.
1Bell, A. F. (1912) In Portugal. London and New York: The Bodley Head. Quoted in Emmons, Shirlee and Wilbur Watkins Lewis (2006) Researching the Song: A Lexicon. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, p. 402.
A1) Arrow 1
A2) Arrow 2
A3) Arrow 3
B1) Arrow 4
B2) Arrow 5
B3) Arrow 6