Dierdre - One
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Dierdre
One
Six Degrees (www.sixdegreesrecords.com)

The music of French trio Ekova, in two releases, 1998's Heaven's Dust and 2000's Space Lullabies and Other Fantasmagore, while far transcending the merely snide, cannot really be appreciated, or reviewed, without a dose of smirking sarcasm. Thus, as if Ekova were not already all about her, lead singer Dierdre Dubois has finally produced her inevitable debut self-attributed recording, innovatively entitled One. Much of the best of Ekova, namely Dierdre's vocals, by turn subtle and over the top, and including her propensity for glossolalia, or singing in tongues, is amplified on this recording, married with a sort of groovy global dance production. Dierdre emerges as a sort of Grace Jones for the new millennium, a vogueish Parisian trip-hop leavened with challenging material and adventurous arrangements.

"Waiting for Spring" leverages synths, samples, and startling Geiger counter abrasions into an exciting intimation of a traditional percussion of the future. Dubois's voice is self-accompanied in coruscating choruses, a central break in what I can imagine as the language of László Hortobágy's Amygdala, the full effect unforgettable and irresistible. "Firefly" is a much more lighthearted triumph, the vocal a study in sophisticated come-hither innocence, the lyrics charmingly insouciant ("face it, I like you ..."), the synth effects almost humorously extreme, conjuring visions of the Jetson kids raving at Club Orbit. And yes, that actually is a slow, drawled cover of "Nights in White Satin," rendered, well, moody by both vocal and production. "More Than the Ocean" is another stunner, techy instrumentation somehow conveying sparseness behind her slurred, hummed vocal and shrill rap-gospel chorus, the lyrics a compelling contemporary love sonnet prefiguring the final track, "One of Your Smiles."

Dubois takes a considerable risk bending her talents to the traditional "A Maid in Love," and wins the gamble decisively with an arch contemporary take. One can only pine for her version of "Tam Lin" - perhaps on Two or Three. "B.A.C.H." is quietly reminiscent of early Ekova, with Mehdi Haddab's oud and a dramatic melody trapped between classical and chanteuse, a fine vehicle for the subtle, emotional side of Dierdre's vocal. "Close to Us," insistently sung in Middle Klingon, manages to convey an elusive beauty in a Saharan tone. Just when you think you're getting a handle on One, Dubois flings "Sweet and Sticky Perfume" at you, an ardently delivered spoken poem, suggestive, anthemic, ultimately obscure, a suitable companion to Morrison's "Horse Latitudes." And then, "Thoughts of You," a dreamy ballad.

On One, more so than on her Ekova recordings, Dierdre Dubois keeps me guessing, off-balance, never bored, always edified. Her vocal almost casually mounts the playful power to dominate the occasionally heavy production, appropriating it to her purposes with a seemingly inexhaustible bag of musical and poetic tricks. It's so good I feel free to make fun of it. Two, anyone? - Jim Foley

CD available from Amazon


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