The last few years have been a very productive time for Tom McDowell and his musical project Dream Division. McDowell is an electronic music composer whose speciality is the heavy and decidedly dark synth sound created by analogue synthesizers. McDowell’s music brings to mind the film compositions of Fabio Frizzi and John Carpenter, with the complexities of Jean-Michel Jarre. If you’ve watched and enjoyed the Netflix series “Stranger Things” then you will be familiar with the score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. McDowell makes similar music, just darker, denser and heavier.
There has been a steady flow of Tom McDowell releases on various independent labels and music platforms. Dream Division’s star has really started rising since writing, recording and mixing 2019’s wonderful Transcend album, released by Polytechnic Records. This year, 2020, has seen the release of the EP Escape From Planet Sauvage and, in the summer, McDowell released The Devil Rides Out on his recently formed independent label, Library Of The Occult. The Devil Rides Out is intended to be an audio companion to the Occult novel by Dennis Wheatley. The album is an excellent collection of haunting soundscapes firmly rooted in the dark synth, dungeon synth and electro-folk horror genres. Its mysterious film score like sound has been received warmly enough for the first vinyl edition to of sold out within days.
Beyond The Mirror’s Image is the latest album by Dream Division, released on the Burning Witches Records label, with beautiful cover artwork by Hauntlove. The 10 song album continues McDowell’s characteristic analogue synth soundscape sound, but with the added bonus of beats driving the rhythms and the occasional heavy guitar sounds.
Throughout Beyond The Mirror’s Image McDowell doesn’t try to hide any of his influences, in fact, he embraces them. For example, the albums opening track “Illusion” has a synth key hook that’s reminiscent of Carpenters’ “The Fog” score. However, although McDowell wears his influences with pride, his music is more than an 80’s horror soundtrack pastiche. “Illusion” is deeply layered and textured, the drums and rhythm are organic sounding and there are more hooks than in a fisherman’s tackle box.
The title track, “Beyond The Mirror’s Image” deserves to have a film made specifically for it. The song builds on an electro pagan beat over which a delightfully catchy synth hook repeats until the guitar snarls to life creating a glorious, captivating mix of organic and electronic music.
Elsewhere on “Looking Glass” and “Looking Glass (Reprise)” McDowell creates a slightly more fragile soundscape. There are still drums and layers upon layers of blended synths but the atmosphere created is more haunted, melancholic and wistful.
Beyond The Mirror’s Image is a great listen if you enjoy 70’s and 80’s soundtrack influenced synth music. It goes way beyond parody, in fact, McDowell has managed to add certain new depths with the rock guitar sounds and the range of drums that take in electro through to 80’s rock. The album has a well-sequenced flow and memorable songs. Something for everyone, maybe. Something for Stranger Things fans, definitely.