❉ As an electronica album, The Eleven Day Empire succeeds in creating a dark and disturbing, but also at points uplifting, mood.
The Eleven Day Empire’ is an electronica album by composer and instrumentalist Mike Dickinson that references and reflects upon a fictional version of London taken from the Faction Paradox franchise of books and audio plays. A spin-off from the Doctor Who novels, Faction Paradox is a time-travelling voodoo cult that inhabits the Eleven Day Empire, a version of London that exists in the eleven days that were lost when England switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in September 1752.
In the books and the audios, the Eleven Day Empire seems to be a haunted and twisted version of London, with ghosts and monsters lurking on shadowy alleys and on the banks of the river. Meanwhile, the Palace of Westminster looms over the skyline and church bells ring solemnly in the distance. It is these cues that Dickinson has taken as the focus for his work, while naming several of the tracks after characters from these stories: Cousin Justine, Lolita, Little Sister Knife and Grandfather Paradox.
This is firmly an electronica album, sharing common ground with Jean-Michel Jarre, early Aphex Twin work and not too far away from the current fascination for synthwave. Tracks like No Sides and Now Go Do That Voodoo (that you do so well) benefit from rhythmic keyboards, with the latter crying out for a Daft Punk style house beat to punctuate it (maybe a remix?).
At the same time this contrasts with more ambient efforts like The Tree of Lives, which matches sweeping synths and a pulsing, hypnotic quality. With its use of woodwind instruments Justine’s Shadow feels like the closest we get to an interaction with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, heartbeat drums and a lighter tone all round is a good contrast to some of the darker pieces. Grandfather Paradox is a piece that seems to seethe with imminent threat, through the disturbing whispers one hears, while Little Sister Knife sidesteps into the hauntological with its nursery rhyme samples and dark ambient feeling, leaden skies overhead. My favourite track overall is Lolita which summons a sonorous piano and a little lightness that recalls Sigur Ros’ Hoppípolla.
In fact it’s only really the title track, with its solemn monologue and synth rock drums that feel slightly out of place. You begin the album thinking that you may be at real risk of slipping into a Jeff Wayne or Rick Wakeman universe, but the rest of the album pulls heavily on the electronica and gives you an album laced with dark feeling. If anything, I wanted more atmosphere and for some of the tracks to be longer. Yes, nothing out stays its welcome, but, for example, I felt like Grandfather Paradox could have leaned further and longer into the dub track it keeps threatening to become.
As an ambient or electronica album, The Eleven Day Empire succeeds in creating a dark and disturbing, but also at points uplifting, mood which would successfully underscore your reading of a good gothic novel or walk through London on an autumnal afternoon. One final thought. The opening track and some of the subsequent ones very clearly sample Big Ben. If the Eleven Day Empire is from 1752 and the clock tower wasn’t completed until 1859, then, well that is certainly a paradox indeed! How fitting for this album and I hope Mike Dickinson is encouraged to take his work further and publish more.
❉ ‘The Eleven Day Empire – an album by Mike Dickinson was released 1 June 2022, and is available directly from Obverse Music, RRP £10.95. Click here: https://obversebooks.co.uk/product/the-eleven-day-empire-mike-dickinson/
❉ John Rivers has been a contributor to We Are Cult ever since the site’s inception in summer 2016.