There are some albums that have an instant impact, but which, on repeated play fail to sustain that initial response. Then there are those which are more challenging, less immediately accessible and demand you work at them, gradually revealing deeper layers and drawing you into their world. Dadd’s is one such.
Straddling folktronica and pop, it is perhaps no surprise that she’s earned the praise of Bella Union label boss Simon Raymonde who, in his days with the Cocteau Twins, was himself partial to some musical experimentations. Incorporating prepared-piano, clarinets, ukulele, steel drums, a DIY xylophone, typewriter, boxes of matches, handclaps, tap-dancing and samples that include her own baby’s heartbeat from within the wombs and singing in a precise, soft whispery tones, she draws on such influences as Steve Reich, African field recordings, Japanese underground improv music (her husband, who features on the album, along with Alessi Laurent-Marke and Laura Marling regular Marcus Hamblett, is Japanese multi-instrumental experimentalist ICHI) and, I’d suspect, Kate Bush and Sally Oldfield, as she immerses herself in polyrhythms, working in the pentatonic scale with heavy emphasis on percussive sounds. Plosives loom large in her singing, notably so on the jazz-folk inflected ‘Bounce The Ball’, the lyric of which consists entirely of the repeated title in layered vocals, and the watery ambience of ‘Strike Our Scythes’ with its ca ca ca coo chorus.
The tapping of a typewriter introduces the album on ‘Make A Sentence’ (another number with a repeated use of the k plosive), immediately setting the pulsing rhythmic notes that inform the material on a number that, with its line “I’m an alien, you’re an alien, we are aliens, so talk’, addresses the need for communication. Elsewhere, it’s evident in the scratchy shuffle of the townships-informed ‘Wake It’ and the tapping feet and nervy treated-piano notes of ‘I Am Your Home’, a glorious burst of euphoric joy with a definite air of Broadway about it, while, underscoring her butterfly nature, ‘Three’ has her performing vocal acrobatics over a circling pizzicato ukulele Emma Gatrill’s clarinet and the prepared-piano trill of the technology-questioning ‘Animal Mineral’ draws on Japanese textures.
Indeed, she says her writing for the album was greatly influenced by the fact she was living in Japan when the 2011 tsunami hit, an event that directly informs the strummed acoustic ‘Our Arms’ where radio static of unanswered walkie-talkies mingles with imagery of water rising and a family climbing on to their roof with a crying baby. That said, on ‘Tap The Sap’ she has clearly been as much influenced by kora as koto.
However, experimental and improvisational though she may be, she never loses sight of melody, here too balancing her contrast of light and shade to bring cohesion from contradiction before the album ends on the optimistic sentiments, circling notes and gradual gathering together of all manner of instruments of ‘Let It Rise’ she sings “we can rise above all of these buildings and when we fall back down, it can be the right place”. She may not be everyone’s taste, but her singular voice and creative vision are the mark of a true original.
Artist website: www.rachaeldadd.com