Dugo – Lingua Franca

Album Rating: 8.3 – Songs for video games.

Photo: Courtesy of Independent Music Promotions

Dugo is the solo project of acclaimed producer, Takahiro Izutani. He has played guitar in a rock band called Happy Family during the late 90s, worked on a number of productions for major artists, and composed many soundtracks for video games. His track “Dublin” was used for CSI: Miami Season 3 back in 2006. Lingua Franca is his latest project, which has been sold out and have become a popular record among video game music enthusiasts.

Roaming through Dugo’s soundscape feels like a cinematographic exploration of extended ambience where you feel like the protagonist of a virtual simulation. The tracks in Lingua Franca uncoil in their own theatrical, squiggly fashion that feel like they move complying with the laws of an otherworldly form of gravity. The opener, “Sunburst,” starts out with quiet and piercing beats that quickly build into an unrelenting, strings-powered rush. It evokes an off-to-the-races momentum, embedding us to a constant influx of exhilaration.

Dugo anchors your flight-or-flight intensity on throughout the entire record, but every song feels like a different mission of the same game. The follow up, “The Sun and a Dusty Road,” starts with tiptoeing guitar strikes that quickly get infused with synthesizers thumping with neck-breaking speed. He adopts the same type of structure in “Momentum,” where the tune sprouts the surface almost cautiously before the flinging strings dominate the melody. While Dugo complies with this rhythmic rush, he also showcases his ability to songsculpt soothing songs. “Gliding Bird” is as smooth as its title – it’s unhurried and feels more of a breather than an energy kick.

Throughout Lingua Franca, strings are the driving force of almost every piece. “Sol Poniente” is an exemplary. It conveys the same intensity-building buzz that we’ve experienced previously and while it may be unimpressive initially, we are immediately taken aback by the goosebumps-rising violin interludes. “Singularity” gives off a Spaghetti Western vibe with its acoustic guitar strums that slowly lure you before the chord riffs start bursting. The following track, “Two Sides,” carries the most dynamism and exhilaration fro the entire album. The ballad feels like it was designed to intimidate your ears where the shuddering piano chords, finger-snaps, and pouncing strings yield a textural grandiosity.

Towards the end, Dugo slows down but without losing any of his dramatic flair. “Boat on the River” opens up like the soundtrack of a mystery film, but the glinting guitars quickly counterweigh the initial suspense and provide space for emotional contemplation. The exiting track, “Ruin,” highlights the theatricality of Lingua Franca. While the track itself does not deliver the same punch of video game-like vigor as the other ones do, it achieves an alchemical blend of muted ambiance and fleshed-out composition. The piano chords uncoil into fine, tendrils of melody while the instrumental samples add mass to the sonicsphere.

Without using any vocals, Dugo captures his listeners into a sea of intimate sounds where computerized beats meet with raw instruments creating a dynamic audio experience. Lingua Franca is delicate and intensely lush at the same time, resonating Dugo’s arranging aesthetics as musician who lets each compositional detail exist on its own and at the same time be part of the theatrical magnitude.

Follow Dugo on Twitter and SoundCloud.

Get the album here.