Album review : DODSON AND FOGG – In A Strange Slumber

Dodson And Fogg - In A Strange Slumber

Wisdom Twins [Release date 26.09.14]

Despite sounding like a dodgy estate agent Dodson And Fogg is actually the ambient musical brain child of singer-song writer Chris Wade.

‘In A Strange slumber’ is an evocative title as befits an album with colourful surreal art work. It would be lazy to refer to this album as simply being rootsy, ambient, acid folk or trippy. For while those elements are inherently part of 14 tracks that wash over you like a psychedelic dream, there’s a musical and lyrical depth that demands further exploration.

Chris’s languid, relaxed, low register voice is the perfect accompaniment to acoustic and lyrical sketches that tap into the subconscious mind, somewhere between a mid-afternoon doze and a fleeting flashback.

The myriad musical references range from the Jethro Tull style instrumental opener ‘The Dance’–an acoustic, mandolin and sitar whirl – to the early Floyd influenced ‘I’m Coming Back’. Then there’s the reflective ‘When You Were Young’, with its Arthur Lee inspired garage rock to the psychedelic waltz of the title track with Chris’s Michael Chapman style phrasing.

He returns to the acoustic Floyd feel of ‘Ummagumma’ on ‘By Your Side’, throwing in a J.J. Cale style vocal for good measure, on a meditative piece full of intricate acoustic and gently voiced tablas.

The album is full of layered instrumental textures, shot through with a sub psychedelic, moody ambient feel. On ‘When I See Her’, Chris emotes like the late Kevin Ayres, while the recurring blend of acoustic instruments evokes the Incredible String Band.

There are so many late 60’s signifiers here that you almost forget the guiding force between the many psych impulses. Even the two narrated bits of whimsy – ‘Entrepreneur in the Garden’ and ‘Clunes the Gravedigger’ – voiced by Nigel Planer, owe much to both Stanley Unwin and Viv Stanshall from the same era.

‘In A Strange Slumber’ may indeed be about a dream and death or fluctuating psychic states, but it’s very much rooted in an era where there seemed to be more time for contemplation.  The music reflects this, drawing the listener in, from the hypnotic hook and Syd Barrett style phrasing on ‘A Day In Your Life’ – a wonderful lyric:  “Gathering your thoughts and old memories” is voiced over a sonorous trumpet line –  to the dreamy psychedelic wig out ‘Never Be Alone’.

He finishes with more subliminal 60’ s references, with the ‘Morning Dew’ influenced ‘A Sweet and Strange Surprise’, on which Kevin Scott’s piano notes resonate and Alison O’Donnell adds atmospheric bv’s.

‘In A Strange Slumber’ demands to be listened to as a whole and in one sitting. Each track contributes a different layer to colour the dream as whole. Even a less substantial piece like ‘The Wind’ fulfills an important role as an instrumental link-piece, drawing us into the flowing and chiming acoustic wash of ‘When I See Her’.

If there’s a criticism it’s simply the absence of a lyric sheet. For while the music immediately connects with the subconscious, the lyrics offer a different portal to another world, which as the title suggest is to be found: ‘In A Strange Slumber’. Unreservedly recommended for all lovers of prog psyche and ambient music.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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In his show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on Sunday 29 March David Randall featured a selection of tracks from “Albums of the Month” (January-March 2020) (29:45)

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Power Plays w/c 30 March (Mon-Fri)

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