“Doubles” contains a large conceptual leap for Dublin-based musician Cian Nugent from his previous releases, the 2007 self-titled CDR, and 2008 EP “Childhood, Christian Lies and Slaughter”; this quality of progression comes through the formal characteristics of the new album, specifically the way in which Nugent trades a division of individual songs for interconnected, fugue-like musical sections based around a theme (seemingly influenced by the structure of jazz and classical recordings); secondly, by the way in which Nugent draws on several different musical forms to flesh out his guitar-based writings, again, showing a definite influence of jazz music that is here very original.
Lastly, there is the skill and ability with which Nugent is able to write music that sets “Doubles” apart from many other musical collections of this year. There is a lot to learn from the recordings, and hopefully other skilled musicians will be inspired by what Nugent is doing with the formal elements he keeps at hand.
Composed of two long pieces, each developed to a length of over twenty minutes, the album contains many different movements whose subsequent sections run kaleidoscopically from one passage of development into the next — all of these musical advancements being beautiful, the closing sections of second piece “Sixes & Sevens” in particular being very elegantly composed. This use of continuously shifting music is liberating to hear, and allows Nugent to concentrate on expressing variations on an idea and its many different shades of interpretation. “Peaks & Troughs,” the first musical set-piece on the record, is the more contemplative and slowly-metamorphosing of the two, and is defined by a modal approach to composition, while showing many similarities with the structure of James Blackshaw’s music. “Sixes & Sevens,” the second piece, is very exuberant and energetic, and is possibly the better of the two.
In terms of musicianship, Nugent’s guitar style is based around alternately strong plucking of strings and soft harmonizing of close notes, which gives the instrument a particularly unvarnished, resonant tone reminiscent of Davy Graham’s technique (especially on Graham’s “Folk, Blues & Beyond…” record). The instrumentation used on the album is highly interesting, including excellent jazz-based drumming and orchestration, vibrant brass playing on “Sixes & Sevens,” and droning synthesizer on “Peaks & Troughs.”
Perhaps most importantly, Nugent’s artistic ideas, and their expression through varying musical forms, show a great deal of maturity and refinement; it’s striking when listening to these recordings to remember that they were made by someone in their early 20′s, and it will be more than interesting to see what direction Nugent takes next.