Diagrams is the name of the band and you’d certainly need an extensive and intricate diagram to link together all the collaborators Sam Genders – for it is he – has worked with. Putting together a complete list would make this the longest review in history before even getting to anything like an opinion. We’ll cast such thoroughness aside and concentrate on the matter in hand.
Dorothy is a project put together with American poet Dorothy Trogdon. Genders, a founding member of Tunng, has collaborated with the nonagenarian from the island of Orcas (close to Seattle) to bring together her thoughts and his, filtered through arrangements by the likes of Kelly Pratt (Arcade Fire, St Vincent, David Byrne, Beirut) as well as Diagrams regulars Sam Ewens, Danyal Dhondy and Astra Forward. And really rather beautiful it is. Exceptionally so, in fact.
Dorothy is one of those records that manages to feel both raw and immediate but also immaculately put together. It shuffles along with a lightness of touch and sparkling folk hooks. I suppose experimental folk is the genre, here, but truthfully it’s more useful to just see it as its own thing. Labels can put people off but the harmonies and vocals on a track like ‘Winter River‘ coupled with distinctly modern production and skittering percussion are a joy. Perhaps a real surprise to anyone who may consider themselves neither folky nor massively experimental. It has that all-enveloping aesthetic that C Duncan exploited so successfully on ‘Say‘. Just a perfect little slice of leftfield pop.
The dreamy-sounding vocals and overall feel is also the same as that Scottish artist. Both have that detached, hazy summer vibe. Diagrams to a greater extent, in fact. The effect is accentuated by the presence of Trogdon’s own voice on the spoken word ‘Under The Graphite Sky‘. Sounding not unlike a higher register Maya Angelou, it grounds the album around which the light as you like gossamer melodies appear even more flighty. The parping horns on ‘I Tell Myself‘ could almost come from Sergeant Pepper’s whilst not sounding in the slightest bit retro. Quite how they’ve pulled that off is anyone’s guess.
Sam Genders and his ever-changing cast of collaborators have created a peach of a record in Dorothy. It swirls over and around you offering up snippets of real beauty. Gentle, it may be, but wishy-washy it is not. If it rains all summer, stick this on and look at a screensaver of a baked field of wheat. Equilibrium will follow. Possibly. If it doesn’t quite manage that, you’re at least likely to still be discovering new elements to this complex and thoughtful work come the mists of autumn.
Dorothy is out now on Bookshop Records.