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CD CHOICE: ROGER DOYLEChalant - Memento Mori Psychonavigation Records ****
As the “godfather of Irish electronica”, Roger Doyle has seen plenty of fads, styles and genres come and go, but the 62-year-old contemporary composer remains a quietly insulated innovator. The Dubliner may not be a household name – at least when it comes to mainstream audiences – but his name is revered in the realm of theatre, film and dance. In those worlds, at least, Doyle’s lengthy career is certainly held in high regard.
Following on from 2009’s Cool Steel Army, his latest collection is a novel idea based around answering-machine messages collected and archived from the past two decades. These “verbal time capsules” chronicle some of the biggest events in the composer’s life. The highs and lows of his score for the Gate Theatre’s 1988 production of Salomé are recounted via messages from friends and colleagues, while Birth is a beautifully poignant account of his first grandchild’s delivery, the minimalist soundtrack allowing the emotion of the occasion to take centre stage.
Elsewhere, the voices of friends, including the late Jonathan Philbin Bowman and actor Olwen Fouéré, drift in and out like half-remembered memories, occasionally muffled by Doyle’s delicate murmurings of piano or mellow strumming of various stringed instruments.
Despite the personal nature of some of these messages (we hear Doyle’s mother sweetly implore her son to “look after yourself” on Voices of Parents), it feels like the listener is being invited to join Doyle on a fondly remembered stroll through his life, rather than an exercise in covert eavesdropping. Perhaps that’s mostly down to the engaging soundtrack. Doyle teases between delicate, stark piano pieces that ache with a defined sadness (Coat-Hanger Kisses), eastern influences (Ahmad Memories) and beyond, occasionally dipping into his experimental trove with the futuristic thud of It’s Very Serious.
It’s a record that demands close attention and a devotion of time, but Memento Mori – the Latin phrase that serves as a stark reminder of one’s mortality – seems an appropriate title for a richly rewarding work that runs the full, glorious gamut of human emotion. rogerdoyle.com
Download tracks: Coat-Hanger Kisses, Salomé at the Gate