Digitonal Be Still My Bleeping Heart Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

An appealing entry point into Digitonal’s salubrious sonic horizons.

Mike Diver 2010

The BBC review of Max Richter’s latest long-play work, infra, made a point of highlighting how its maker craftily combines elements from the classical world with motifs more commonly associated with rock-arena artists. Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt, Sigur Rós and Eluvium: unlikely stylistic bedfellows, perhaps, but musicians who echo through the work of the German-born, UK-based composer.

Andy Dobson, the skittering-of-beats half of London duo Digitonal, is Richter askew – where one marries indie traits with elegant themes drawn from the classical sphere, the other scatters chattering electronica atop the work of violinist Samy Bishai, aka the accomplished-of-bow half. Be Still My Bleeping Heart – and be still my sides at that horrible pun – is a collection covering material from the pair’s recordings to date. Come and Play opens their debut album of 2002, 23 Things Fall Apart, and all four tracks from their 2004 EP The Centre Cannot Hold – Cantus V, Amberkreiss, Snowflake Vectors and Maris Stella – are included.

It’s not a complete retrospective, though. Nothing from 2008’s Save Your Light for Darker Days LP is featured, making this more a package for recently acquired admirers than complete newcomers, those who picked up the last album and now want to hear their limited-release early material. But absolute beginners need not start with the group’s latest fare before working their way backwards – there’s enough here to comprise an equally appealing entry point into Digitonal’s salubrious sonic horizons.

“Neo classical ambient electronica” – a mouthful of a description used on the information accompanying promo copies of this 11-track set, but an entirely accurate one. Laptop percussion and organic strings combine to craft spacious arrangements to soundtrack waking hours when all the listener wants to do is close their eyes and drift away from the day. Dobson and Bishai are not in the business of challenging their audience, not here at least – everything is extremely accessible, and incredibly pretty. To the choosiest of ears some movements may sound rather clichéd, and certainly there are moments where great beauty is partially compromised by predictability; but many will be lulled into a state of serenity by compositions designed primarily to calm, despite occasionally boisterous beat-work.

Richter is an artist who takes his constituents and moulds them into compositions that can bemuse as well as beguile; Dobson and Bishai, though, have only beatitude on their minds, and Be Still… confirms they had clear sight of that goal on their very earliest recordings.

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