Trip Hop Beauty Offers Darkness And Light.
A tiny, blond haired beauty who sings like a sad angel and writes songs that could give Tricky a
nightmare, Dot Allison is a newcomer with a history.
In the early 90s Allison's group, One Dove, created a translucent techno style that was both
darkly synthetic and synthetically beautiful. At the core of One Dove's computerized barrel of
beats, bleeps and blips was Allison's gorgeous voice, instantly memorable for its tear-jerking
soul and soaring sweet-as-chocolate luminescence.
With Afterglow (Arista), Allison returns, and this time she is more than an exquisite voice
wrapped in techno blather. The girlfriend of Death In Vegas mastermind Richard Fearless, Allison
has learned the lessons of techno, infusing her music with trip hop, country, and a little
classical Russian romanticism. Entirely programmed and performed by Allison, who was trained as a
classical pianist, Afterglow is beyond dark and lovely, it's more like overturned gravestones and
shimmering, precious gems.
Like wayward SOS messages emanating from a lost satellite, Afterglow sparkles aimlessly in its
lustrous trip hop haze. The former One Dove vocalist looks like a belligerent Kim Basinger and
sings a little like Beth Orton. But her brains are as twisted as a prison inmate gorged to popping
on Tricky, Portishead, Massive Attack, and Debussy.
"Colour Me" coarses ominously with brooding beats and cranky guitars while Allison purrs like a
delirious black widow about to inhale a doomed lover. Allison can also sound surprisingly naive,
as in the mournful country ballad, "Tomorrow Never Comes." "Close Your Eyes"' dazzling harmonies
and synthesizer strings give way to the bizarre "I Wanna Feel the Chill" and the oddball
instrumental, "Morning Sun." But as Afterglow proceeds, it also cools. Allison sings like a teen
magnet "I Imagine You," and recalls St. Etienne's Sarah Cracknell in "Mo Pop." Finally, "In Winter
Sun" hints at Abba with its waltzing piano and flowery sentimentality.
Beautiful voice and long, delicate fingers intact, Dot Allison exits, a delicious mystery for the
Guitar.com: What was your goal for the sound of Afterglow?
Dot Allison: I didn't want it to be glossy and slick. I wanted it to
retain the character of a performance. Sometimes when you get into the studio and you've got
Protools and you can quantize everything and keep it right on the beat, I think that robs a lot of
the character. I wanted it to be a human sounding album as opposed to making it so correct it
didn't have any character. I wanted it to be quite moody, bittersweet, cause I think life is
bittersweet. There is an underbelly to every kind of good experience that darker. That marriage of
different shades of life. I wanted it to be psychedelic as well, and to reflect the records I like
which are quite soul-searching. They make you address things in yourself that maybe you don't
access much of the time. It sounds pie in the sky but I wanted it to reach inside of you and not
be a superficial record. And also to have guts, not to be lightweight. Imagine if you just met
someone and you are falling in love with them and you had to listen to their favorite songs.
Guitar.com: That would scare me with you, some of this is so bizarre.
The one with the the Tim Buckley loop in particular.
Allison: That is "I Want To Feel The Chill." That is about unrequited
love actually. I suppose in the way that there is a sense of release in that kind of situation...I
like the dissonance in it. It is a jarring melody, but not so that you take note.
Guitar.com: How did you come upon the Tim Buckley sample?
Allison: I own the Elektra box set. The sample was quite queasy
sounding to start with. I just messed with it a little bit. The actual sample is just a guitar
that is out of tune. Then I played the piano on an old upright. It was out of tune too. I love it.
It is like a shanty. "Shine Like Stars" reminds me slightly of that demeanor. It is organic.
Guitar.com: You wrote part of Afterglow in a wheelchair?
Allison: Umm, not really. I had a car accident. We got hit in the
back on a motorway. I was in the wheelchair for a couple months. I think that in the way that you
are connected to your music, part of Afterglow was colored by that experience. "Morning Sun" is
about my experience with morphine, which they put me on afer the accident.
Guitar.com: Did you like it?
Allison: It is an amazing sensation. I remember thinking at the time,
cause I was hallucinating on the morphine, that I felt like I was going to float. And I really
felt like I could control that feeling. It was quite strange. It was really nice. It was a warm
feeling and I felt like I could control everything. But I would never go near anything like that
Guitar.com: Was Tricky an influence?
Allison: Not consciously.
Guitar.com: Afterglow does not sound like your previous group, One
Allison: You don't think so? A lot of people think it does. But I
agree with you. I did a lot of the programming. I've got an Akai 3200 SL sampler, and a Nordleed
keyboard which is a brilliant virtual analog keyboard that has old analog sounds, but it is a
digital device. I also use a Mackie desk and an ADAT, Cubase 3 and a couple of Roland keyboards. I
demo the music at home then take it into a studio. Then I can bring in the 909s or some analog
keyboards. I write the songs on piano. The acid test of a song is if it can exist just with guitar
or piano and voice. I either start the songs on piano or I begin by constructing things on the
sampler. It is not a formulaic thing.
Guitar.com: Do you sing in characters?
Allison: Not consciously. I think that there are facets of me, a
little bit of childlike naivety comes out. Or a kind of cautious, suspicious side, it is facets of
me, I never think that I am making it consciously twisted. What comes out, sometimes I surprise
myself. It is that automatic thing, musically, not just lyrically, people always assume that there
is a message in the song. But for me, sometimes I surprise myself with what I come out with. I had
written this classical piece for a film [Daybreak] and I was surprised that I could hardly play
it. I didn't know that I could have that effect on myself. It was strange. It is not a
slit-your-wrists piece of music, it is very uplifting.
Guitar.com: Where did that come from?
Allison: I don't know. I think the songs don't come out until they
are ready to come out. I've had a bridge in a song knocking about, then a year and a half later I
finish it. I do have musical dreams. There is usually a story goes with it. Like I am doing a gig
and there is an encore and this song! It is never that simple. I might sing something in the dream
and it will be the most beautiful song I have ever heard. But if I don't wake up in the right
phase of sleep I can't remember it. But it must have been there to begin with. Ken Micallef
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