Click on the video footage of this strange music and you might feel flickers of exhilaration, followed by a tiny thud of ennui. Even if our polar ice stays frozen, few of us will ever be able to travel to the bottom of the planet to hear this otherworldly wishing well in real life.
Does that make the pyew-pyew any less real? Even if we didn’t get to hear Aretha Franklin sing “Amazing Grace” from inside the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church back in 1972, listening to the recording helps trick us into thinking we’ve truly experienced it, right? This is the mystery-cloud that floats over the music of Beatrice Dillon, a British composer-producer whose meticulous new album sounds like it was recorded in an impossible, nonphysical no-space. Now, here it is in ours.
It’s called “Workaround,” which feels right for Dillon’s hyper-clinical approach to sound editing, but not for the weirdo wonderment that it sparks. Imaginative and hygienic, Dillon’s digital rhythms are punctuated by acoustic instruments — cello, tabla, steel guitar — that pop up and vanish, playing peekaboo with the void. When saxophonist Verity Susman materializes during a song called “Workaround Two,” it’s as if Dillon and her guest have discovered a way to activate the nonexistent air of digital space. How does a saxophonist blow a note in a vacuum? Like this.
At first, that illusion of airlessness feels nice, maybe even generous. As the hellhounds of the information age continuously yip for our increasingly divided attention, here’s 40-odd minutes of music that we can funnel into the privacy of our respective headspaces without having to venture out into a world of glacial melt, coronavirus outbreaks or the new Justin Bieber album.
But the feeling doesn’t last. Roughly halfway through the tracklist, Dillon’s dance floor fluency begins to reveal itself. Phantom pulses begin forming in the negative space. You might only be able to hear them inside your head, but they’re real-world nightlife rhythms — the kind that invite you to move your body through a familiar, enchanted darkness.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be inside a club. Instead, find a good pair of headphones, locate a strollable path that’s safe after dark, cue up “Workaround” and get walking. You’ll be striding through reality in all its wonder.