They say that dogs resemble their owners. You could apply this to Outlines, the new album from Peter Doran. Recorded in an idyllic-looking cabin on a lake, surrounded by lush Irish countryside and rendered in old-school fashion with largely acoustic instruments and microphones, the benefit of peace and solitude lends the album an early 70s aesthetic run through a 21st century filter. Outlines is a mellow song writers album that feels like it was recorded in a lake house in the countryside; all that’s missing is the vague hum of valves and the warmth of an analogue deck. It is the sum of its parts and reflects them.
There’s a melancholy air to the writing, and often a dark tone to the melodies and lyrics. Moon begins like a ballad but from the second verse the protagonists view of the girl he’s dreaming about is coloured with a drop of sweat down the spine as she asks if they are doomed. The darker corners of the night are re-visited throughout, as does the feeling that Doran is searching for something but can’t quite put his finger on what that something is. Stories remain unresolved, questions unanswered. Puzzle Box calls for honesty over foreboding cello notes and minor-key finger-picking. The World Is Wide dreams of adventure but never buys the ticket. Both use beautiful imagery and the latter’s chorus opens like a flower does to early morning sun, but these aren’t friendly pop songs. They do, however, suck you in.
It’s difficult not to associate the singer with the song and because the balance of the album looks inward, the songs can feel like a psychotherapy session on a six-string couch, but Doran isn’t the first songwriter to spill his guts onto acetate and there’s just enough separation to allow us to peer in without being overly voyeuristic. Do (What I Do) is an interesting combination of savage navel-gazing and cussed pigheadedness, Doran peeling someone (himself?) apart whilst saying ‘so what?’ Part Nick Drake, part David Gray (seriously), Tug is another blunt missive from the borders of real and imagined, images of ghosts, poison and ‘..rooms that lie beneath..’, sickly-nothings in between the notes that propel a song intent on self-flagellation – if these are just stories, they’re incredibly well delivered.
And so it goes on. Bright White Hearts could be the title of the next Kylie single but treads a Gothic guitar line and half-whispered vocals that segue into Out Of Time where life ‘..is a train wreck, let’s be honest’ and ‘..dreams go cold forgotten’ amid a bird-song background. The most recent comparisons I can relate Outlines to would be either Nathaniel Rateliff’s In Memory Of The Loss or Early In The Morning by James Vincent McMorrow, both works subject to similar gestation in isolated, wild places, where an artist is allowed the time and space to extract the real essence of their material and work it into shapes rarely experienced in today’s million-mile-an-hour existence.
I’d have liked to have seen the odd variation in pace – not much crawls above a Sunday walk – but don’t let that or the somber moods turn you away. We’re all, more so now than ever, in need of a little reflection, perhaps even a little introspection; Outlines captures the spirit of a slower, more considered life. As Doran sings regretfully on the final track Waves, ‘What a year what a year / I got no time, I got no time. / Were you pulled along, were you dragged under in an avalanche of days / Sunrise Sunrise / We rise and run, run now for our life..’ Whilst it may seem a shame to articulate in this way, it’s served to inspire this collection, further proof that every cloud has a silver (out) lining.
Review by: Paul Woodgate
Arbutus Yarns Presents: A Day Well Spent With Peter Doran
Album Launch 7th November – Whelan’s, Wexford Street, Dublin
Available via Bandcamp: http://peterdoran.bandcamp.com/album/outlines