WITH A LIGHT TOUCH dilly dilly. Photo by SOPHIE DOUGHER
Dilly dilly was lamenting to me the other day that there's no blueprint for making a living as a musician anymore.
She's trying out the free-download-but-donate-what-you-can thing that Radiohead popularized, and though that's been done around here before, I'd posit there hasn't been anything of quite such quality, nor anything so much anticipated, available under such terms in these parts. Of Art and Intention is the debut full-length for one of the most recognizable faces on the local scene — between her work with Cerberus Shoal, her solo performances, and her sheer ubiquity in live-music venues — and it is both brand-new and timeless.
With a vibe a lot like Bon Iver's (and I had that in my notes before I read her shout-out in the liner notes), the album is a construct, meshing the organic reality of any number of stringed instruments with the bleeps and bloops of manufactured beats and keyboard sounds. It is ethereal and grounded, sharp and raw and smooth and polished. Dilly does most of it herself, often playing three or four instruments, but she gets help from Jason Ingalls (Seekonk and Satellite Lot, among others) on drums recorded at Acadia, along with guest spots from Alias, Spencer Albee, Sontiago, and Fresh Kills.
"Doo Write" opens the album with a plinking chorus of ukulele and keyboards like toy piano, with a wrong-note bend for good measure. Dilly's crystalline voice, syllables savored in her mouth, worries "we've become what I was afraid of/Never looking forward, always back/to what we never really had." Then the song moves more pop, with a bass line for body and "bob-bop" backing vocal tracks.
Dilly dilly sometimes layers five or six of her own harmonies into a song, as on the mid-album snack, "Travelin' Man," where she strips down to nothing but an acoustic guitar.
For "Love Divine," trumpet combines with swirling digital noises to create a wash of sound and harmonies, Middle-Eastern flavored, like she picked some things up from the Okbari/Tarpigh guys. Ingalls's drums are martial in contrast to the rounded edges of everything else here, Dilly's electric guitar scatter-shot and flighty, vocals a little lost amid the chaos.
While much of the album is thoughtful and melancholy, wistful even, it is never maudlin, and there's even a light finishing touch: "Alien Dance Queen" is as silly as its title implies. With a hint of Erasure's "Chains of Love," we discover "he was an alien dance queen/A cosmic super sex machine."
Hey, anything's worth a try. A romp in the hay with an alien, a free download, a ukulele paired with MPC — dilly dilly's game. That she makes it all stylish and beautiful? That's her talent.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at email@example.com.
OF ART AND INTENTION |Available for download at www.dillydillymusic.com | Donations accepted