Review: Mountains – Alan Dunn & eleni poulou
Many people have found the lockdown a time of loneliness and isolation. Others have jumped into collaboration to assuage that feeling and to find hope and the energy of inspiration in new ways. The fun that springs from good collaboration is a magic of discovery and frisson. As Western culture begins to move away from the myth of the ‘lone genius’ we re-discover the power of collaboration.
Last October, Alan Dunn (TAPE BRITAIN, tenantspin, FOUR WORDS) and eleni poulou (Honey-Suckle Company, Nohe Noshe, The Fall) investigated the ephemeral joy of wandering the streets of their respective cities (Glasgow and Berlin) in the conversational composition ‘Bestow’ which includes ambient sounds, music, and spoken word in a back and forth dialogue that captures the in-betweeness of life in quarantine. Sometimes it can feel like going in circles. The omnipresent bird song becomes a third voice in the conversation, but one that’s not really heeded by the musing walkers. It’s a vivid slice of life from these extraordinary times.
Their new recording ‘Mountains’ take the collaboration further with more music and a structure that builds more of a collage than a conversation, enhancing the complexity of the mix. Poulou’s bass and keyboards give a richness to the palette with the occasional guitar riffs from Loose Articles. This piece looks back as well as forward, revisiting ‘splinters of the past’: the cover art has the two as children. The bespoke LP also has poulou’s sketches, as well as an orgami rabbit and stitched postcard ‘hand-made by Alan’s mum, Agnes.’ Dunn muses on having hated the sound of his voice, how he learned to be more silent in art school, and the mortifying experience of drunken relatives at Christmas demanding ‘gie’s a party piece!’ but not having a song or poem to recite. Poulou contemplates the ways we get through hard times: ‘People say since the last full moon everything is better.’ As low points become mountains, we make choices: left, right, forward, U-turn. ‘We’ve made it this far. We can go on a bit further. I am hopeful.’ The mountain itself becomes red, having read a book on human psychology and learning that people feel less depressed when they wear red. Mustn’t grumble.
There’s a lot of healing in this meditative collage. The looking back is never just nostalgia, but a kind of wonder about what has been survived to be where we are right now. The video created for playschool of the damned/The White Hotel adds another layer of pleasure. The footage has the warmth of home movies yet the clips remain abstract enough to immerse you in someone else’s life for a short journey. It’s good to get out of yourself for a little while. You return with thoughts of how to look at your own situation from a different vantage point. The best creative works inspire you to do more. Mountains will make you itch to create something yourself.