Behind GAGARIN is Graham ‘Dids’ Dowdall, a veteran musical experimentalist who has been a member of LUDUS, FACTION and PERE UBU with Nico, John Cale and Eric Random associations along the way…

It was following a visit to Russia and a move from drums to electronics that led to Dowdall’s adoption of his Cosmonaut moniker and the release of several acclaimed albums and EPs since 1996. Fast forward to 2023 and Dowdall was invited to soundtrack ‘Solitude’, a film by Nina Danino about Nico.

Acknowledging his close relationship with Nico from playing drums in the cult German icon’s backing band, the commission led to an electronic reworking of her 1981 single ‘Saeta’. With its main guitar riff now transposed into a synthesized arpeggio backed by reverberant polyrhythmics building up to a cavernous grandeur, this cerebral tribute to Nico became the first track recorded for the new GAGARIN album ‘Komorebi’ .

However, later in 2023, Dowdall had his own ghost to deal with when he was diagnosed with advanced bladder cancer and underwent chemotherapy. But displaying the utmost resilience, he continued composing and recording the remaining tracks for ‘Komorebi’ in his studio by the sea in Margate, Kent. ‘Komorebi is a Japanese word that refers to how sunlight is seen and felt through leaves and branches so is a fitting title expressing the light and shade looming within Dowdall’s mindset.

Opening the album, the windswept ‘Margate Illuminati’ centres around a repeating pattern but it is wonderfully held down with a sinister drone and percussive tension. ‘Cingulum’ adopts uneasy moods capturing drama and menace while drifting with birdsong accompaniment, ‘Wonderdusk 1’ acts as a widescreen relaxant before a mantric rumble and distorted string machines take proceedings into another place.

As ‘Hazmat’ speeds into bliss during an uptempo about turn, ‘PAM 710’ provides some Sci-Fi ambience. But making use of creative distortion, an unwielding impressionistic effect engulfs ‘Lomea’ as a beacon calls in the distance. Discordant signalling shapes ‘Codeswitch’ before crunching up on the avant-industrial while the ‘Stanmer’ strips things down to distorted sweeps and birds still singing in the background to end.

With most of its instrumental pieces in excess of 5 minutes, ‘Komorebi’ is an absorbing listen and fits right into the current trend for Hauntology as it moves around moody ambience and melodic optimism, noisier textures and darker distress. Released on the 63rd anniversary of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space, ‘Komorebi’ is a document of hope and escape in difficult times while not shying away from reality.

‘Komorebi’ is released on 12 April 2024 by Geo Records as a CD and digital album, pre-order via

GAGARIN 2024 live dates:

London New River Studios (11 April), Lincoln Weird Garden (13 April), Gravesend St Andrews Art Centre (26 April), London Walthamstow Trades Hall (27 April), London Biddle Brothers (2 May), Rugeley Lea Hall Pavillion (4 May), Brighton Brunswick (11 May), Manchester Plex – performing OST of ‘Solitude’, a film about Nico (15 June), Colchester Cuckoo Farm Studios (22 June), Gainsborough Church Of Sound (24 August), Colchester Arts Centre (27 August)

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Brian David Stevens
11 April 2024