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Dot Allison - London W1 Improv Theatre - 10 March 1999

Discarded cigarettes and up-ended pints litter the rain-damp floor, but Dot Allison is walking on sunshine. Eight years ago she lent her ethereal voice to the frantic beat of burgeoning rave culture with One Dove, now here she is, serenading her own comedown. She's not so blue as Beth Orton, though, and rather than casting a contemplative glance at the encroaching dawn, she's still floating on air, scattering liquid loops and effervescent melodies like stardust.
She starts off shyly, nervously fiddling with her hair and hovering cautiously over the microphone as though it might mutiny. She has to contend with shouted requests for One Dove songs and uncooperative leads but by the time she settles into the dreamy pedal-steel guitar glide of 'Tomorrow Never Comes', she's weaving arabesques with her fingers, slapping a tambourine, confident she's captured a room full of hearts. Her luminous voice, of course, is unwavering, and even the occasional tepid chorus blossoms into the sweetest of anthems when broadcast from those lungs.
The afterglow of her dance roots still resonates in pulsating rhythms and measured repetitions - 'Message Personnel' consists of a call and response with a vocodered backing singer, and her club cred is further bolstered by the pre-gig presence of Death In Vegas' Richard Fearless on the decks - but, with her string quartet and statuesque inscrutability, Dot Allison is more Jane Birkin than E generation, more supper club chanteuse than bouncing boogie diva. Sometimes she bears an uncanny resemblance to Sarah Cracknell, and indeed she straddles a similar line between dance and pop as Saint Etienne, but Allison eschews the kitschy trappings of easy listening in favour of a more streamlined serenity.
When, on current single 'Mo' Pop', she swooningly intones, "You travel through my blood/Coursing through my veins..." it seems not to be so much a song about love, or drugs (and love, we know, is the drug), but about the sheer joy of music, the brightening rush of pure melody.
And it reminds us of something she said earlier, a snippet of a song repeated to fade: "Maybe life's just begun". Dot Allison has found a sound she can call her own. Maybe it has. April Long


Originally appeared at the NMEwebsite. Copyright Copyright, IPC Magazine Ltd. 1999 All Rights Reserved.

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