When Dragos asked me to contribute to his new magazine, I was super flattered and excited and had a billion article ideas in mind. But as it often happens with manic enthusiastic people like me, there’s a pretty huge gap between our aspirations and actual achievements. So after a couple of missed deadlines and friendly reminders, I decided it was time to finally sit down and start writing.
I was dead set on reviewing my friend Adrien’s excellent Slot Machine Music Vol. 2 CD-R that just got an LP reissue mastered by Jason Lescalleet, but alas I got sidetracked by this other release and ultimately decided that if I were to write about something, I should probably start with an album I’m really passionate about.
So, after reading this article in the latest issue of The Wire (and as many of my friends can vouch), I’ve been having quite a bit of a lady-crush on Beatrice Dillon. And by lady crush I mean not just ‘oh this lady is SO cool I like her music’, but more like a dozen of my friends waking up with an exclamation-mark ridden 3 AM email from me, sounding like the ultimate teenage fan girl saying shit like ‘OMG!! You guys!!! THIS!!! You have to listen to THIS!! NOOOOW!!!’ And I NEVER do that! Well, almost never. At least less in the past few years, since I started making money as a DJ. It’s a little sad when you catch yourself starting to get cautious about casual music sharing.
But I digress.
My first reaction when reading the article in the Wire was ‘ok, here is this probably 40-something nerdy artist lady from London who’s into world music, Gwen Guthrie, makes sound art pieces and is programming drum machines - if I were 14, I would say this is who I want to be when I grow up. Heck, even as a 26 year old sound artist/DJ I would still say the same thing!’.
Honestly, I was super intrigued to hear this lady’s music; not so much because of the promise of alien techno stochastic non-club music, but mostly because her of her eclectic taste and contemporary composition background.
While waiting to track down the release, I started reading a few of her interviews and the more I read, the more I felt like I could relate to her and her taste and ideas: the intellectual appreciation for dance music, the intuitive approach to composition and her general gender-bending musical curiosity. Sure, this might seem quite trivial for the millennial who grew up on post-everything productions, but for us grandpas raised with more conservative genre definitions, eclecticism is still considered an asset.
So one sleepless morning, I finally gave Blues Dances a listen; my expectations were fairly high and yet I didn’t quite know what to expect. One thing was sure – I was hooked. Lately I’ve been mostly listening to just two extended families of music: drone and dance music. This tape was the mutant child of both worlds. At around noon when my friends started waking up and I had shared this with a fellow synth geek his first reaction was ‘Oh nooo, you ruined my life! This lady is doing the exact type of retarded bass type of thing I wanted to do! She already made all the music I wanted to make!’
Of course, this didn’t stop him from loving it too. Here’s the nitty gritty of the most exciting half hour I’ve heard lately, track by track.
Longing, the opening track is based around a sample of an Ernst Jandl poem, coupled with a sparse yet vigorous bassline, vocal-improv specific mouth sounds and tiny field recordings textures. The album moves into a more rhythmic structure with Carrier and Mask, an outer-space muffled dub piece with a techno restless knee and one of the most elusive vocal hooks ever.
Cue ‘My Nocturne’, a DADA dialogue between a celestial drone theme and a murky, giant 6 feet under bassline. Side A ends with Halfway, probably my favorite track from and the most playful from the release – at roughly 126 bpm, it might be the most club appropriate piece. There certainly is an invitation to movement sustained by a constant rhythm backbone; only the invading additional elements are so present that they completely transform the potential dance track into an underwater abysmal parade of strange creatures, with no beat drop in sight.
It might be more appropriate to think of her pieces as compositions rather than proper track; their structure is closer to classic contemporary and improvisational music than that within the electronic/dance genre structure.
Having said that, side B opener Reebs Dub sounds like a 4th-dimension future relic, but can easily fall between the cracks of beat-oriented music. This is probably what a cross between stoned-out Peaking Lights and Gyorgy Ligeti would sound like. Poisson is a furious yet poised series of delay and pitch variations that sound surprisingly elegant and complex, creating a vast sonic space, with plenty of full-fledged movements. There’s a pretty insane panning game going on there – you can almost see the air vibrate and follow its trajectory.
The tape ends with 34, a beautiful deconstructed piano theme that reminded me of this Katie Paterson piece I saw during Nuit Blanche 2011. In Earth-Piano-Moon, she sent Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata by Morse code from earth to the moon and copied the reflected result. This was then written into a new score, including the lost/distorted notes. Hearing this play on a mechanical piano in an empty theater at 5 am was quite mesmerizing.
I have to admit I did try and play two of the tracks in a club. Twice. To my surprise, I didn’t get any angry stares (ok, maybe a few confused looks tho) or ‘change this bullshit’ requests.
I actually did see this girl trying to move her legs to Halfway after Larry Heard’s Ice Castles. Regardless of my early nightclub trolling, I am super excited of hearing her full-length release next. 2015 is just around the corner!
2. Carrier and Mask
3' My Nocturne'
5. Reebs Dub