Captivating music that speaks so very loudly without making much noise at all.
Mike Diver 2011-12-08
Young, attractive, active in the bustling Berlin electro scene, signed to the always interesting Bpitch Control: Dillon, born Dominique Dillon de Byington, has a great deal going for her before a single second of this debut album is heard. But expectations – beginning and ending with techno, given the label in question’s pedigree – are dashed by a collection which confounds with a beguiling sound somewhere between muted electronica, chamber-pop and torch songs. Imagine Lykke Li lost in the shadows of Fever Ray’s haunted house, or Hanne Hukkelberg pained by a heart crumbling to dust: that enveloping atmosphere in mind, it’s somewhere close to what this disc offers.
What might be a fairly cold experience, given its most apparent parallels, is anything but – Dillon uses spare beats, subtle orchestrations and background-mixed brass, but everything is bound by a vocal that speaks to the soul, not the soles. This is music for meditation, for contemplation; for escaping into and wandering around, not losing oneself to on a sweaty dancefloor. Indeed, the feet would be hard pushed to muster more than a shuffle to the reserved tempos of tracks like You Are My Winter, the sort of skeletal affair that allows its central vocal to dominate, and to soar. Dillon isn’t a pitch-perfect performer; her sometimes squeaky voice presents a cross-Atlantic comparison to the singular tones of Joanna Newsom. But it’s a presence that infects these pieces with a personality uncommon in discs targeted, primarily, at the dance market. No, This Silence Kills is no upper-end BPM affair, but its branding nevertheless aligns it with a certain market sector.
But if it didn’t reach wider, to those listeners enamoured with above-noted acts – and also the compelling talents of Bat for Lashes, Florence + The Machine and even the grande-dame of anything female-fronted and a little bit outré, Björk – would be a shame. There are moments here, details of songs, which cause the throat to close, the eyes to widen. The sighing accordion of the untitled seventh track, an instrumental that builds to a pulse of wordless phrasing from Dillon; the finger-click percussion of the forbidden love story Thirteen Thirty-Five (the beautiful melody of which is based on/taken from Jens Lekman’s Pocketful of Money); the spiralling piano motifs of Texture of My Blood: these are breath-stealers, instances indicative of an artist who, when she strikes consistency (not quite accomplished here), will not just be one to watch but one to hold close like a loved one not seen for years.
This Silence Kills is bookended by cuts more in keeping with the Bpitch Control catalogue – the opening title-track and dramatic closer Abrupt Clarity are digital designs that move their maker nearer the fare of label alumni Apparat and Modeselektor respectively. But it’s what’s between that captivates: music that speaks so very loudly without making much noise at all.