wears the trousers magazine

dot allison: room 7½ (2009)
September 9, 2009, 12:30 pm
Filed under: album, mp3, review | Tags: , , ,


Dot Allison
Room 7½ ••••

Over the last 20 years, Edinburgh-born musician Dot Allison has gradually evolved into a musical enigma of considerable variety. From the high-powered dub and comedown pop of 1993’s Morning Dove White (back when she fronted the short-lived trio One Dove) to the psychedelic folk incarnation she’s developed over recent years, via torchy, nocturnal pop (1999’s under-regarded solo debut Afterglow) and strung-out modern electro (2002’s We Are Science), she’s been all over the musical (and literal) map. What may have surprised some is how well her songwriting stands up when shorn of electronic elements, as first indicated by the self-released CD-R Acoustic that just 200 people can claim they own, and later consolidated on 2007’s Exaltation Of Larks. Following in that understated album’s footsteps, Room 7½ steers Allison’s music even further away from its origins with a raw and complex take on current trends.

Laying its foundations in softly-sung freak-folk, Room 7½ lends variously from the likes of CocoRosie and Saint Etienne, while ‘Paved With A Little Pain’, and specifically ‘Jonny Villain’ – both standout tracks – vaguely echo the works of an albeit subdued Ani DiFranco, an unlikely comparison on the surface of things. Though her melodies revolve expertly around a hushed intelligence, Allison’s vocal delivery is without a doubt the album’s biggest strength. Standing out boldly against the instrumentation, her dusky, careworn voice glides as effortlessly as ever throughout this largely downbeat album. Indeed, the more dubious highlights come when Allison shares the mic.

One such problem area is the admittedly catchy ‘I Wanna Break Your Heart’, one of several songs that Allison has penned with Peter “Don’t call me Pete” Doherty. If there was ever a woman with competent skill to tame Doherty’s tendency for drug-addled ramblings, it’s Allison, but ‘I Wanna Break Your Heart’ fails to achieve the same level of control of their earlier duet ‘Sheepskin Tearaway’ (from his 2009 solo debut), stepping on the slipper-shod toes of the album’s other songs. Still, it successfully confirms that little but the hand of god can interfere with the beauty of Allison’s music. Elsewhere, she shares space with other high-profile male musicians: Paul Weller duets and co-writes on lovely lead single ‘Love’s Got Me Crazy’ and James Johnston of The Bad Seeds performs on multiple tracks.

Having little in common with the phobia-amping torture chamber of Orwell’s Room 101, Allison’s fractional sanctum is a dreamland of possibilities and forgotten memories. While it’s not impossible to zone out during certain songs, the majority of Room 7½ instigates the kind of comatose joy that could comfortably shuttle one through some of life’s worst moments. Gloriously cushioned, it is the epitome of beauty.

Tiffany Daniels
UK release date: 07/09/09; www.myspace.com/dotallison


FREE MP3: Dot Allison, ‘Buzzing Round The Honey Pots’ [acoustic]


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