Sometimes the emotions we need to encapsulate when we lose someone we love evade words, but TJ Dumser has managed to collate everything from grief to gratitude in only six tracks in his latest EP Patricia. Released via Inner Ocean Records under his alias ‘Six Missing’, Dumser finds himself in admirable company alongside other lo-fi artists who overstep the perceived restraints of electronic music and unveil emotive masterpieces that ooze authenticity.
We all have moments that create lasting impact on our perspective on life, but very few involve phantom spirits and a pursuit to honour the dead. This, however, is exactly how TJ Dumser acquired his ominous pseudonym, paying homage to the sextet of souls who were never found during the Battle of Brandywine, the longest single day battle of the Revolutionary War and the current site of Cabin in the Woods recording studio. The context behind this artist’s name encompasses life, death, honour, and the grandeur of our legacy after we pass. All these sentiments can also be found in Patricia, an EP which transforms the memory of his late maternal grandmother into an orchestral narrative of cinematic proportions.
Patricia retains the theme of honouring those who have left this realm for another, and is a sonic story of love and loss dedicated to Patricia who sadly passed away last year. Though six tracks could of course be individual gifts for the six missing souls, it’s clear that Dumser has specifically penned a united homage to the nature of Patricia, the warmth and patience by which he remembers her permeating every track.
“The sharp interjections of bow scraping strings remind us how grating the stress of worry can be, as it interjects so abruptly in even the idlest of moments”
‘Passenger Seat’ immediately directs us to our place in this journey. The sombre and sustained melodies requiring very little of us as we observe Six Missing at work, witnessing his memories from a side line perspective as he stays in control of the layered melodies. As a listener we are but a small part in this vehicle he has constructed with sound, with Patricia the engine fuelled by the orchestral crescendos and falls of her life, driving us forward to the next track.
The tone change in ‘The Stress of It’ presents the emotional toll the last year had on Dumser and his family, unable to find comfort in one another during this trying time because of the national restrictions. Dumser has formed a pathway with the ivory keys, tracing the piano like a path trampled on his daily walk. The sharp interjections of bow scraping strings remind us how grating the stress of worry can be, as it interjects so abruptly in even the idlest of moments. The background of this track is akin to white noise, fluctuating in its intensity throughout but a constant crackle. This signifies the presence stress has had in all our lives over the past twelve months, this feeling which bleeds through every TV screen and radio wave – unwanted yet inescapable. Thankfully Dumser extends an open hand through the noise to pull us from the encroaching darkness, as ‘Iluny’ offers us a moment of escape and reminds us of the beauty in the quotidian.
The falling water in ‘Iluny’ erodes away the stress of the day, washing us clean of the intense emotions that seem to coat our very skin. The piano is gentle, bathing us in a calming glow and forcing us to slow our breathing until we find peace. As ‘Iluny’ descends into a hush, it feels as if Patricia has found her peace too.
“The melody feels like sun rays trickling between thick leaf filled branches, showering the moment with light”
The sound of a tape being put into a cassette player transports us to another time. The scene of a ‘Simple Forest’ bathed in light unfolds before us, filled with a cacophony of birdsong so piercingly beautiful and familiar in all its incarnations. Dumser continues the slower pace of ‘Iluny’. The melody feels like sun rays trickling between thick leaf filled branches, showering the moment with light. Dumser creates a moment where solitude prevails and we are reminded of the beauty of the now, how beneath our feet lies a network of roots which trace history and unite us all. In the same way each tree in a forest communicates with another under the surface, Dumser has created his own echosystem to communicate the experience of his family and the life of his grandmother to us through sound. As the crackling of fire and trickling of water breaks through the smooth strings and sweet synth, this EP interweaves the elements into the track to add another layer of natural grandeur. Though the digital crackle of our stressful lives is still present in the background of ‘Simple Forest’, one click of the cassette player puts us in control of it, and silence prevails once more.
Just as roots connect us, they also symbolise regrowth and new life. The vibrancy of ‘Plant Flowers’ and its sister remix close off the EP on a hopeful note. The piano sits in the forefront, an instrument incorporated into the other tracks under a more melancholic guise now stands centre stage to uplift our spirits. The dynamism of Dumser’s composition mirrors the malleability of our feelings and shows how a memory that can strike a chord of grief can also, in time, be looked on with fondness. The introduction of the electronic guitar symbolises a look to the future, that modern riffs are a sign of changing times and a passing of moments. The sound is crisp and light. Though similar to the other tracks and the stories they tell, ‘Plant Flowers’ is more of an instruction than a description. Dumser requests the listener to “find the beauty in each moment. Remember that now is all we have”. And sometimes to change our outlook we must first change what we see. So plant the flowers and in time they will provide the beauty in another’s idle moment.
Patricia has found her namesake in this beautiful EP, and Dumser’s desire to pay homage to her memory and create something “warm and patient” has been undoubtedly achieved. I implore you to submerge yourself in the sea of emotions Dumser lays bare, and reflect on the capacity we have to honour life through the sonic stories we tell.