Album Review: DOMAN – Michaelmas Domix

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With Covid-19 halting the majority of music-making at Durham University, Durham Original Music & Alumni Network (DOMAN) have done well to create a 20-track album. This has highlighted that creativity can continue in these difficult times for many musicians — students and professionals alike.

Lucy Bernardez opens the mixtape with ‘Tomorrow’, ‘There Is Nothing Worse’, and ‘You Once Told Me’, three folk-inspired tunes. The balance of her voice alongside the guitar melodies creates a unique mixture of dulcet tones alongside some winsome moments. Additionally, the classical string lines in ‘You Once Told Me’ give light to an instrumental force often forgotten by many songwriters, to provide a mature and unique spin to this ballade.

Double Down is the first group to feature, also adding three songs to the mixtape. The opening guitar riff of ‘No Dice’ is reminiscent of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’; however, the group keep the general tone of the piece far more acoustic. The simple vocals and guitar concept in ‘Lazy Day’ particularly allows Saunders’s voice to shine through. Overall, the innovative bass lines and funky inspirations show off their range and capture the talent of this duo.

‘Manikin’, the next song of the mixtape, is a single released under Alex Comaish’s name but recorded with his band, Fly Trap Honey. The song is typically indie, with synth sounds combined with more classic guitar lines to produce a rather laid-back tune. The plucked guitar riff first heard in the opening and three-part harmonies are two stand-out features and, overall, the group provide listeners with a catchy tune. Ending with a guitar solo, however, it feels as though the song is cut short and I was surprised a final verse wasn’t added onto the end of this.

Kat, aka Kat Pittalis, offers the second single of the mixtape. ‘Mind Games’ includes many commendable features of a classic pop tune infused with funk features. The addition of a piano solo in the instrumental break allows the song to stand out from other tunes of a similar style. Perhaps a more interesting horn line would have added further interest to the material and enhanced her mixing of genres.

Outerrings’ ‘The Wail’ has an ethereal quality from the start. Synths are prominent throughout and the noteworthy chord progressions, heavy bass, and extensive soundscape create a multidimensional feel to the piece, making this artist certainly one to watch out for.

Inkstain’s two songs, ‘Stained Glass Soul’ and ‘Not for Love’, offer a fun and fresh pop sound to the mixtape. Both tunes provide a different look into their style; ‘Stained Glass Soul’ opens with muted lyrics before breaking out into an upbeat guitar solo, whilst ‘Not For Love’ is more nostalgic, set at a slower pace. The listener can tell the group enjoy experimenting together, and their catchy lyrics often sail across their indie guitar lines.

Oceans of Sound’s two songs, ‘Sleep Isn’t Sleep’ and ‘Lost Prescence’, are heavily influenced by Lofi beats, encapsulating dreamy qualities to create a rather relaxed backdrop. Combining synths with electric guitar, the duo are imaginative in the manipulation of their material and have an excitingly original sound. Vocals are certainly not missed in their music, with the lyrical nature of the solo guitar line in ‘Sleep Isn’t Sleep’ replacing the prominent role of vocals that many other artists have employed on the mixtape.

Taliya Hafiz’s three songs on the mixtape bring with them a plethora of romantic lyricism. Writing in English, French and Tatar, her music helps the listener’s mood to transcend the many mundane tasks of lockdown. The gentle piano accompaniment and instrumentals heighten the poetic nature of her mellow voice, and, although I only speak one of the three languages featured, the soulfulness of her voice traverses any language barriers.

The final artists featured on the mixtape are Sam White and Ed Osborne, otherwise known as Escher. They combine edgy grooves with atmospheric dreampop vibes to create their authentic sound. This duality enhances their sound to mix soft and harsh accents from a dichotomy of inspirations. The arpeggio guitar lines of ‘Burrow’ are particularly poignant to their sound, and with four songs featured on the mixtape, they conclude the release in style.

Although lyrics were sometimes rather basic, the overall soundscapes of songs are fresh. Credit must also be given to the song order, with the mixtape working splendidly as a unified whole with peaks and troughs. In a time where Durham’s student scene has come to a standstill for many, it is inspiring to hear such a broad range of original music from students. I am excited to hear the new sounds they will each explore in 2021.

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