Domenique Dumont

Domenique Dumont’s music has traditionally entailed a game of hide-and-seek, concealing vocals behind layers of reverb and placing the drums right up at the front of the mix, daring the listener to dig to get to the center of it all. The artist is no less forthcoming about his, or their, own identity. The project was previously said to be a collaboration between the Latvian duo of Arturs Liepens and Anete Stuce and an unnamed (and possibly fictitious) French artist. Five years after their 2015 debut EP, Comme Ça, Dumont returns as a solo act, though not much more is known about him. The duo made its name with the underground hit “L’Esprit de L’Escalier,” a chirpy song that was just center-left of outright pop, and their debut album on France’s Antinote label, Miniatures de Auto Rhythm, continued in the same vein of Balearic pop songs made to be enjoyed in the sunshine.

By contrast, People on Sunday takes a more subdued—and more conceptual—tack. The album was conceived as an original soundtrack to a 1930 German silent film of the same name. Part documentary, part fiction, the film follows its characters, played by amateur actors, around a normal Sunday in Weimar Berlin, unwittingly capturing a snapshot of a city on the verge of cataclysmic changes. Accordingly, Dumont’s melodies are also like characters—soft and gentle, and often fairly sparse, yet imbued with all the sweetness, complexity, and intensity of the people they soundtrack.

The album’s title track opens on a motif that loops like a stuck record, suggesting the unchanging rhythms of everyday routine, but new sounds—flutes, harps, chimes—are constantly coming and going, as though testaments to the little changes that interrupt that monotony. Album closer “Everyday Life” has a plodding cadence; it’s upheld by an arpeggiated pattern that bumbles its way through the song, embellished by other elements along the way. In their tweeness, these ornaments resemble the work of Mort Garson, the synth pioneer who composed his landmark 1976 album Mother Earth’s Plantasia to be played to houseplants. The return of the main theme after a significant breather, followed by a final metronome-like beep, recalls life’s ceaseless motion, ever forward, past the present moment and into the next.

Dumont’s palette of vintage synthesizers imbues these vignettes with a quiet sense of wonder. “Gone for a Wander” is contemplative and placid, embodying the aimless pleasure of the song’s title. Dumont’s short flourishes adorn the slow, steady rhythm with moments of delight, like a wanderer stopping in a clearing to observe light bouncing off puddles. “Merry-Go-Round” is one of the busiest tracks on the album, populated with lots of different elements and held together by a single arpeggiated melody. Eventually, the smaller motifs blend into one colourful blur, just as the world does from the viewpoint of the center of a carousel. In little moments like these, the joy that People on Sunday radiates is self-evident, even when untethered from the film that inspired it.

Like the film, Dumont’s soundtrack is about taking stock of the ordinary. It also imparts a valuable lesson, one that could equally apply to the events of this year: Savor the quotidian wherever possible, because who knows what tomorrow will be like.

Buy: Rough Trade


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