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The Moving Dawn Orchestra: "Dials"

img  Tobias Fischer

Dials, the first release of UK electronic musician Guy Andrews under the moniker “The Moving Dawn Orchestra,” is a sublime and hypnotic description of the four seasons—themselves acting as metaphors for the stages of life. Though colored with subtle synth sounds and babbling electronics, most of Dials is characterized by post-rock chamber-music instrumentalism. Sweet strings wind around icy piano ostinati while foreboding electro-hums emerge and retreat from the texture like dark shadows. More than your typical ambient work, Andrews attacks the compositions with a true sense of purpose, resulting in a majestic and philosophical quality that affects you long after the final notes have faded into silence.

“Spring: Hymn/Hymn” opens with pensive, minimalist piano—a hypnotic 4-note repetition from which orchestral colors slowly blossom and stretch. Glockenspiel falls between the cracks of the piano figure as lush strings step in to signify the emergence of life. Humming electronics and reversed sounds bounce between the speakers like chirping crickets, creating a subtle but engaging polyrhythmic bed. When heavy-handed piano chords break through the texture, giving way to a new and anthematic swell of strings and twinkling mallet percussion, the effect is one of ecstasy—a cinematic affirmation of a new season that manages to sustain a dream-like disconnect that keeps the music from becoming embarrassingly sweet.

“Summer: Keep Still” is even warmer, with a child-like and pastoral glockenspiel figure laying the ground work for buoyant finger-picked acoustic guitar and quiet, bubbling electronics. Andrew’s whispered vocals move in and out of coherency, though the more articulate phrases like, “don’t stop, there’s somewhere to be,” and “wait…wait up and let the sun rise” are enough to indicate a call to become consumed by beauty—something Dials accomplishes throughout the entirety of the album.

“Autumn: Between Hands” drifts aimlessly like the falling leaves blown back and forth by an increasingly chilled wind. Piano rocks delicately back and forth between two chords, dated keyboard sounds swelling in sustained notes over bowed bass. The composition carries a dark and foreboding expectation of the winter to come, though more thoughtful and magical than truly menacing.

The lonely piano anchor of “Winter: Silhouette” becomes the spine of a haunting minimalist composition of mournful strings and a trembling bassline. When the piano and bass drop out, suspending the strings alone in space, and disturbing electronic buzzes and the sounds of bent circuits bleed into the texture, the music grows almost overwhelmingly dark. The final two minutes of the song seem a nod to Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile, with Andrews delivering hushed lines like “feel the darkness/fall over/to redesign this/in the next life” through a black cloud of ambient synths and a menacing mud puddle of low end piano rumbling. When the final chord fades into blackness, you’re left with chills scurrying down your neck.

Dials is more than a programmatic work about seasons—it’s a musical painting of an entire life, from birth to innocence, then loneliness, and finally to a haunted vacancy with the promise of another chance ahead. It’s a dark and sublimely beautiful work that within the context of its individual parts often floats without direction. But that’s the point. Dials is as much taking isolated musical snapshots of seasons and stages of life as it is about telling a coherent narrative. And it accomplishes that aim masterfully.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: The Moving Dawn Orchestra
Homepage: Fluid Audio Records

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