Currently Spinning…Algernon Doll

I must warn you: the following review has an high fangirl level, which in this case was a pretty damn good thing, as Algernon Doll and his sophomore ‘Citalo-Pop’ did fulfill my expectations. Already famous for his unique blend of lo-fi alt-folk and hardcore, Ewan Grant released the debut ‘Camomile’ in 2012, and soon his Algernon Doll awoke the attention of both the audience and the blogosphere.

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The debut ‘Camomile’ was such an emotional and tormented journey, that probably emulating it would have been an insult to its dark fragility. Indeed, ‘Citalo-Pop’ moves forward, and proves a sensible maturation of Algernon Doll as an artists, even if it draws more into Ewan’s punk and hardcore background than the debut. Back to the origins almost to express a sense of liberation and rebellion from the restless interior struggle of ‘Camomile’.  Continue reading

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Algernon Doll interview: waking up in the morning with Napalm Death

Algernon Doll - Promo 1

Algernon Doll, moniker of Ewan Grant, just released the début Camomile, a cathartic journey through a difficult year dealing with the mentally debilitating toils of extreme anxiety disorder and bipolar. A really emotive and gloomy release, that grabbed me so much. Therefore, I needed to know more. And so, nosy time with Fab and Algernon Doll.

You went from punk, hardcore scene to a more melancholic and lo-fi experience. Was this change of direction a natural evolution, or more a sudden and conscious twist?

To say it was an evolution is a little disrespectful to punk and hardcore. I was kind of forced to change my musical style as every time I would get excited and throw about my guitar like an idiot on stage I would feel on the edge of a panic attack. It’s maybe more difficult to portray as vast a range of emotions with hardcore as it’s inherently an aggressive style of music. When I lost a few of my close friends I was far too depressed to be just solely angry at what happened so it’s a bit like painting the shades of grey and adding different stylistic tints rather than just using black and white. Youth is very black and white, when you lose your innocence you need more to work with to explain things to yourself.

Always talking about your musical background – have you played in some bands before landing to your solo project? what do think you’ve learnt from your past musical experiences?

I’ve played in a bunch of pretty terrible hardcore bands, done some ambient collaborations too. I’ve learnt that if you’re playing with as much passion as you felt when you wrote the song, it’s difficult for the crowd not to take something from you. I’ve also learnt that killing your emotions and nerves with alcohol before a performance may make it easier but it definitely doesn’t make you play better..

I imagine you have been surrounded by music since you were a small child, as you come from a family of musicians and composers. Music must have been a big part of your life so far. Have your family determined somehow your current music influences?

I’m sure they have although the only thing that really comes to mind, that I share a love for with my parents, are the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. My mum and I both love John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album and it has a special place in my heart for that. It’s pretty hard not to take something from the Beatles though.

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Let’s talk a bit about Camomile, which I really appreciated for its emotional impact and power. Anxiety and bipolar disorders are really strong themes, especially when they come from your own experience. Could we say that music has been a medium to face these demons?

Thank you, I appreciate that. The thing is that when you suffer from these disorders they control your life. It would have been impossible to write an album that didn’t have those themes. It definitely helps me understand them and vent. I’ve always appreciated honesty in music so I don’t leave much out.

As a song-writer, you have covered the instrumental aspect as well as the lyrical one. Was the instrumental side of Camomile reflecting and emphasising the themes you covered?

Yeah, I think when you listen back to it there’s almost always an underlying drone in the background like a creeping anxiety that’s getting the better of you. The crescendos are also intended to feel like breaking points where you’ve reached your limit of suffering and helplessness. There were times that I used to feel like accepting my body shutting down as it was easier than living with these problems ever day.

I was listening to a lot of Grouper and Fugazi at the time…I don’t really know what to make of that combo.

Is there an established framework or formula to the songwriting process? Or will you let anything fly at first?

I try to let anything fly and not discriminate or else I’d probably ignore a lot of worthy ideas then I structure it pretty classically. Sometimes I used a few Roy Orbison type structures.

You have supported Franz Nicolay (Against Me), Chris T-T, Esperi and Willis Earl Beal. What’s the most memorable live performance so far?

I think every time I play at Book Yer Ane Fest in Dundee it’s the most special to me as it’s for Safe-Tay, a charity really close to my heart, and I’m very proud to be able to help raise funds so that people don’t have to lose friends the way my friends and I did. My album launch was also really special, it still baffles me that people want to hear me play my music and it makes me ecstatic that I get to do that for them.

Nosy time. Could you unveil us your musical guilty pleasures?

I love Toto! They are brilliant, the key changes n aw. THEY DON’T HAVE A BAD SONG! Also, I really like that first Panic At The Disco record. I think it was unfortunately lumped in with a scene of posery kids but when you give it a listen it’s incredibly well written and executed!

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In your opinion, which is the best song to wake up to in the morning?

“Lovin’ You” by Minnie Ripperton as it has lovely birds chirping which is pleasant or “Dead” by Napalm Death….because it’s so short and I can go back to sleep for a bit.

Which are the main appointments in your agenda for the rest of 2012?

I’m just giving my next album a listen through, mastering and doing some art for it. I have a couple of secret Xmas gigs too. Apart from that I have to work hard to afford to buy people presents this year.

Algernon Doll

Algernon Doll - Promo 1

Ah, England, you and your light drizzle. You really know how to start a Friday morning with the right foot. If you feel a bit gloomy yourself, you may be in the right state of mind for this raw alt-folk-ish gem. I’d rather not call it folk, as the music itself draws from such a rich spectrum of references.

Camomile is Algernon Doll’s journey through a difficult year dealing with the mentally debilitating toils of extreme anxiety disorder and bipolar. After having experienced with the punk and hardcore scene, Algernon Doll, moniker for Ewan Grant, progressed his sound  to the next level, in order to exorcise his own demons. Camomile leads us to the deep meanders of his own mind, using music as a vehicle of emotions.

The acoustic guitar picking keeps clashing with the tense background made of cello intermissions and and interferences, almost emphasising the power that bipolar disorder exerts on music (I tried…, Son of a Gun, brother to None). Vocals are almost about to crack with emotion, haunted by spooky backing vocals and echoes, stressing on the feeling of paranoia that crawls during the the whole full length (Tender Attention). In a roller-coaster of sensations, the album goes from reveberber-y new wave hints (Strung Between, Feather to Fall), to some minimal acoustic tracks, slightly warmer in the sweet-sour approach (Coast). The gloomy atmosphere will slowly blur, as the subtle feedback crescendos explode from the tension reached, leaving the helpless listener surrounded by a Twilight Singer-esque gothic aura (Styrofoam Eyes). The album slowly leads to a Jeff Buckley-like confession with the closure of the title-track Camomile, in which the frustration is explicated via a barely audible distortion, that will eventually lead to full fireworks.

As you may know by now, I like to challenge myself exploring “difficult” albums, as life is not all made of sunshine pop sugary landscapes and unicorns. As an intimate statement of human suffering and frustration, Camomile is one of a kind.

Cover Album
Camomile
Similar Artist: Jeff Buckley, Twilight Singer
Rating:

Tracklist
1. The Great Western Snowfield
2. Spiral Sounds
3. I Tried…
4. Styrofoam Eyes
5. Coast
6. Feather to a Fall
7. Intermission (Apology #1)
8. Son of a Gun, Brother to None
9. Tender Attention
10. Strung Between
11. My Apologies
12. Camomile

Freebies: Jacob Faurholt, Algernon Doll

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After the release of Dark Hours, Danish songwriter Jacob Faurholt has released  his newest release Geek Love is the Best Love via bandcamp. Out on Raw Onion Records, the EP draws from Lou Reed‘s experimental rock and early Bowie, being somehow influenced by the eclectic Berlin-scene (Geek love is the best love). The chilled atmosphere and minimal tunes winks at the US bedroom folk, still keeping its own vibe. Melancholic, bitter and slightly fuzzy, the EP is a nice free treat for a gloomy dark afternoon. 

Algernon Doll – Son of a Gun, Brother to None

Remember Twilight Singer‘s poetic, yet slightly gloomy aura? The kind of depressive tunes you throw yourself into, in a masochistic spiral of emotions. Fuzzier, harsh and reverser-y, Algernon Doll’s debut album, Camomilepromises to be our favourite companion during dark winter afternoons. As a first bite, the new single Son of A Gun, Brother To None is available to download now.  Algernon Doll promises us a journey through weariness, loss and paranoia.
It may not be the easiest one, but its preamble has already fascinated me.