Saturday, November 20, 2010

Loop Over Latitudes - Dalot

Loop Over Latitudes

n5MD Records.

SCQ Rating: 76%

It’s curious that n5MD, a label that initially dealt in the mini-disc as its format of choice, now regularly issues some of the most commanding, full-length-encompassing records of all the electronic imprints. This isn’t the case of a once micro-scaled label puffing out its chest; their reputation for quality albums that clock between seventy and eighty minutes in length renders each release day a massive one, each record a mini universe to carry home and discover. Loop Over Latitudes may break that reliable mould by registering well under the hour-mark but Maria Papadomanolaki, who records as Dalot, earns every second of n5MD’s aura by engineering compositions that stretch out ominously without ever blurring into drone’s seesaw dynamics.

As both a classically trained musician and a sound-collage artist, Papadomanolaki merges gentle ambient nuances with everything from crisp traditional instruments and field-recordings to carefully layered noise. Her breadth of knowledge quickly distinguishes ‘Solitary, Vacant’, a gauzy drone track peppered with glitches, by elevating its mood with pastoral guitar and wordless vocals. It’s but the first of many instances where Dalot shapes concrete and lucid structures out of something we’d be forgiven for assuming would remain a zone-out composition. ‘When’ has barely gathered its glum melody when a percolating rhythm rises in the mix, leading to a sumptuous swirl of bass, distorted synths and languid guitar. Even when thick beat-programming swells into ‘Time To Be (Out Of Time)’, these evolutions never sound flashy so much as integral to Papadomanolaki’s unspoken narrative, which unfurls at such a deceiving pace you hardly notice when she lets the ambience win (as on ‘View From a Hill’).

Loop Over Latitudes’ quieter moments unveil Dalot’s aptitude for sound-collages, a secondary ace-in-sleeve that gives her airier compositions a palpable place and time. The distant sirens that squeeze into ‘Rewind’ might’ve felt obvious in the hands of a lazier songwriter but here they contrast an initial seaside setting as though we’re sitting in Papadomanolaki’s passenger seat, drifting back into the traffic artery of a congested city. Loop Over Latitudes doesn’t deserve or plead for exclamation-ridden reactions; it’s a more inert listening experience, where the actual and imaginary aspects of Dalot’s songwriting play with your head.

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