People On Sunday has drawn for its inspiration a 1930s silent film known by a few names including Menschen am Sonntag, Les Hommes le Dimanche and People On Sunday. It was written by Billy Wilder and filmed in 1930 before Hitler came to power and Wilder left for America, a move that gave us such films as Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend and Some Like It Hot. Menschen am Sonntag runs at 73 minutes and this album at 40 minutes but I did manage to sync up most of the tracks with the images as the titles correspond to the action that takes place on the screen. The film itself is a time capsule of Berlin celebrating the feeling of release that Sunday brings after a week of day-to-day drudgery. If follows the romantic machinations of the main characters, starting at Bahnhof Zoo train station and featuring the countryside and boating lakes of Nikolassee and Wannsee. It’s also notable for the main actors all being amateurs and playing themselves e.g. a wine seller, taxi driver and working in a record shop.
This was originally composed specifically for the Les Arcs international film festival and was performed live in a ciné-concert screening in December last year, now receiving a physical and digital release. It is a singular electronic delight from start to finish. It never rushes themes to their conclusion but allows lush waves of sounds to ebb and flow throughout. I always felt the hand of the composer spreading the warmth of a park in summer and guiding us through the thirteen tracks and always keeping at bay the feeling that this temperate embrace was produced by the dispassionate coolness of electronic circuits. There is a wide-eyed optimism to the opening track ‘Arrival’ as it’s effervesces into life, like the foam on the coffees that Wolfgang and Christl share in the park. Each track on the album contains its own personality, drawing from the action in the film, but also creates a cohesive and intimate whole. The sounds are wonderfully innocent with tones of organ, woodwind and bells but their use is intoxicating with melody and counterpoint often dancing together like the murmuration of starlings or the susurration of water or leaves in trees.
You might wonder if this is the kind of music Debussy or Fauré would be composing had someone introduced them to a bank of Korgs, Moogs and Yamahas and People On Sunday also inhabits the same universe as the talented Haiku Salut (who most recently did a glorious soundtrack to Buster Keaton’s film The General) or the North Sea Radio Orchestra. It also put me in mind of the laid back electronics I got lost in throughout the 90s such as Air, Koop or the sunshine-and-sea-spray of José Padilla’s Café Del Mar releases. Domenique Dumont has created a truly exceptional piece of music that will delight the ear of anyone who wants to be soothed after a rough day/week, transported to a blissful meditative state or just start their Sunday by dunking a croissant into a big bowl of optimism. A shaft of sunlight on a grey autumn day.
Review by Paul F Cook