When I, as a regular Ambient traveler, discover a work called Housekeeping, I am not completely thrown off my anticipation-filled path. I would be more than glad to look forward to perfectly soothing music that ennobles the pesky organizations and steps it takes in terms of having a snugly home. For now, let us forget these thoughts, as this is not what the duo of Dor has in mind on their self-released 13-track debut, which is available to purchase and listen to in full at Bandcamp. Hailing from an unspecified Southern part of the United States, bassist John Rutherford and drummer Jacob Worden come up with a polylayered work that is cleverly rooted in many locations and even whole realms which one does not necessarily connect to housekeeping. For starters, the whole atmosphere of the album is cinematic, akin to movies and animes such as Blade Runner, Akira or even stereotyped television series of the 80's which feature heavy car chases, burning vehicles and short timespans for the appropriate reaction to an evil guy's badass move. Housekeeping is also keen on cyberspace and steampunk territories. It is nowhere mentioned by the band, but this perception is more than a gaseous mirage. Feelings of hopelessness and shadiness soon morph into proper action-filled sequences and moments of bliss and enchantment. Each of the chequered 13 tracks is examined in the following paragraphs. For the moment though, there is one additional topic on the agenda, for I have not even told you about the music-related approach of the duo. Their strategy heavily orbits around the drumming and bass skills of Jacob Worden, a particularity that is definitely similar to Nheap aka Massimo Discepoli's works of which Clouds Under The Table (2011) took this idea to new levels. While the percussion and bass coatings are in the spotlight, the band attaches them to synth pulses, guitar chords, New Age remainders and Drone layers. A purely synthetic sound has to be avoided at all costs, and while the duo uses generous amounts of post-processing filters, the origin of the drums and the realness of the bass guitar are ubiquitously noticeable. Housekeeping is a work of many strata and moods, quirky title choices and exciting interplays. 


The opener is a simple arrow bracket called [, and without giving away too much in hindsight, the closer is the fitting foil, unsurprisingly titled ]. In-between these brackets, the narrative takes place. The opening arrow bracket is thus a short vignette of 30 seconds, comprising a gorgeously hazy, diffuse and lift music-evoking euphony of fuzzy staccato beats and warmhearted piano droplets. It is in this short and purposefully blurred prelude where the Japanese video game culture of the 80’s shimmers through. It is like the menu music to an unwritten sports game that wants to assure the player that he or she is in a carefree comfort zone. It is, in a way, one of these perfect jingles you heard in the radio days of yore. The cryptically titled W. Va then marks the actual beginning of the album. Launching with voltage-resembling, frequently oscillating power drones in adjacency to galactic ice shards and portentously charged synth rivers, W. Va is constantly perturbed by dark matter bursts and arpeggiated cybercopter rotors. The tense ambience experiences an indentation after three minutes when Dor’s important aspect of live drumming comes into play. A deliberately accessible beat aorta driven by a classic drum kit meanders through the shady backyards, the nervousness rises, the majestic cyberpunk atmosphere is interpolated with an overwhelming feeling of being watched. The cinematography is perceptible throughout the song and proves to be another important marker in terms of the intrinsic palette of textures, timbres and tones that altogether belong to Housekeeping. The following Brick presents itself in hatched colors, and it was only very recently that I applauded the Dark Ambient supergroup B/B/S for naming one of their tracks Brick, aptly enough found on their LP Brick Mask (2013). Dor’s Brick offers an austere guitar-driven glimpse onto a forlorn hallway, and though the whimsically spectral synth streams and the rhythmical static noise bursts are welcome sentinels of progression in this still life, it is the aqueous hall of the dropped bongos that widens the panorama and the loneliness, thereby retaining the cinematic prospect.


Nobody Walks shows the true vigor of Dor’s synergetic arrangements for the first time, as it kicks off with a misty Hip Hop beat à la Boards Of Canada already intact, paying homage to a drum-heavy genre by unchaining an eclectic clockwork that still shows the origins of the real world, i.e. the palpable drums and the bass guitar, the latter of which John Rutherford uses here to inject a murky five-note melody that is counterattacked by the acidic clangs of the beats and the echoey clicks. The apex of the track sees a growing number of dusky synth strings with a following construction of space flute tones before the song ends with the Hip Hop beat being presented in glaring clarity, with its impetus even stronger than before. That this electrifying critter is called Nobody Walks is either a cheeky misconception or a pernicious warning. While the short interlude Fanfare features artificial klaxon horns of the bubbling kind, an opaque melodiousness and increasingly overdriven guitar layers, Dor reach a remarkable multi-faceted high with their almost six minutes long Easter Parade. The point of origin is a gravely gelid temple gong in the far distance that is then molested by the brazen shrapnel of the gunmetal-colored bass guitar. So long, ambience! What the track does not unveil in this moment is its enormously retrogressive charm. Once the sustain of the temple gong has vanished, a staccato gallimaufry of entangled guitars ensues, followed by a pumping beat. What’s the big deal? Well, this tune sounds like it is made for a car chase scene of an 80’s TV series of your choice, the cool slickness is all over this piece, the beat is steady and literally driving the whole scheme, and it is only in its final state that ethereal synths bolster the song’s backdrop. It is one hell of a track, clearly rooted in nostalgia. Fans of the French Electro DJ Kavinsky should check it out, and I for one am surprised to drop this monsieur’s name in one of my reviews. Dor made it happen. Up next is Lag, a dedicated Drone track of the semi-flustered kind. After an enigmatic fade-in phase of hazy streams and bouncing guitar protuberances, the track shifts its textural shape and introduces incisive synth placentas and piercing electric guitar gurgles. By now the duo is closer to the Shoegaze galaxy than on any of their other tracks, yet silkens the raw power of the guitar with grey-tinged, partially discordant synth runlets. Lag is a spine-tingling artifact, it feels heavy despite its lack of filters and the clarity of every element.


Moving to another biosphere of post-apocalyptic amicability with their track White Tie that morphs its military march structure into a guitar-kindled, straight beat-underpinned sunset full of purple analogue synth oscillations, it is Dor’s LightsLightsLights which offers another change of the formula: the benign friendliness and enchanting setup is presented right from the get-go. This Ambient phase is maintained by a languorous, almost paradisiac synth fest before a steady 4/4 beat is dropped here as well. Gently hammering guitar molecules in major interpolate both the motion and emotion, there is at one point a short intersection of a heavily whirling gale, but once the beat kicks in again, the carefreeness only grows with the addition of further synth strings. A saccharine track, yes, but by no means syrupy. The aptly named Segue returns to the dualism of sobriety and isolation, as Worden and Rutherford place an abyssal but mellow beat beneath music box-resembling electric piano melodies and slowly swelling strings. After the catchiness of LightsLightsLights, the duo’s Segue can only lose, and it is indeed tiresome due to its state of being the third track in a row with a club-compatible beat. Luckily, Dor return to more upbeat, positively convoluted beat sections in Listening Post where they marry a hectic breakbeat with delicate bass guitar injections, Italo House pianos of the bewailing and golden-shimmering kind as well as an overexposed tape hiss undulation. The second phase focuses on the great beat with many snare drums and a wondrous mixture of wooden-brazen structures before the piano leitmotif returns. The penultimate tune is the centerpiece of over nine minutes called Alone, I Find You Here. Murmuring wind gusts swell in juxtaposition to warm guitar drones, acroamatic frizzles evoke a New Age antrum of tranquility, everything is well-balanced and mysterious, were it not for the improvised guitar licks which cut through the transcendence and clearly belong to another track; whatever track this might be, these sun-soaked parts destroy the blue-tinted aura which is only resurrected in the last two minutes when the guitars are mute. The final song is the aforementioned closing arrow bracket ]. It presents a final experiment of dichotomy by putting a bit-crushed moiré over a dissonant, eerie synth fog that evaporates moments later to make room for the ultimate lift melody which itself then fades out for good.


If an album title is so completely detached from the intrinsic sound layers and arrangement as Dor's Housekeeping, it leaves me pretty much in awe and keeps me pondering. Why did the band choose this album title? It would be easy for me to come back to the guys and ask away, but I refrain from doing so on purpose. The potential stylistic gap only grows and makes the mystery much more interesting. Music-wise and devoid of all naming conventions and witty titles, Housekeeping is a good debut even for Ambient fans who raise their brows due to the numerous mentions of beats and drums. Indeed, Dor's debut does not cater to their specific needs because of its shape-shifting appearance, the labyrinthine rhythms, recognizable guitars and cymbal-driven percussion, but in the end, the aural cinematography is a huge boon and is actually maintained and nurtured by the band until the very end. The intended listener should not think in Ambient niches, be in the know about cyberpunk-influenced or dirtier science fiction movies or novels and ought to be fond of the late 80's and early 90's video game or arcade culture. Even though the band neither targets this audience specifically in the liner notes nor in the tag cloud at their Bandcamp site, I do believe that Housekeeping offers the base of affection for this vast and varied audience. The factors of exiguity and tense escapism are perceptible in the majority of the tunes, whereas the many laid-back arrangements form the counterpoints and coat the situations of hopelessness in warmer, if also shadier settings. The original vision of John Rutherford and Jacob Worden to feature first and foremost eclectic or electrifying beats and percussion layers is partially acquitted: there are awesome breakbeat brutes that impress due to their towering appearance and harsh but zestful structure, but at the same time there are ordinary 4/4 beats that are not particularly memorable. No harm is done in this case, the best works of the genre – Gas' Zauberberg (1997) and Königsforst (1998) come immediately to mind – almost exclusively rely on a steady bass drum. However, since Dor are capable of so much more as they are showing on tracks like W. Va and Listening Post for instance, the more easygoing upbeat offerings leave a stale aftertaste in terms of their self-imposed focus. But since Housekeeping is so multilayered, thematically varied and incredibly cryptic thanks to its innocent, commonplace title, I advise open-minded Ambient fans who are not put off by the guitar-fueled presentation, clanging percussion and sudden eruptions of tone sequences in major to check out Dor's promising debut. 



Further listening:

You can purchase and listen to Housekeeping in full at Bandcamp.



Ambient Review 202: Dor – Housekeeping (2013). Originally published on Apr. 10, 2013 at