Given her wonderfully insolent and vital contributions to Matthew Herbert’s previous musical endeavours (most notably on 2001’s Bodily Functions), this debut album from singer Dani Siciliano is long overdue. Indeed, the record has taken some three years to come together, Siciliano having invested in a basic home studio and learnt from scratch how to assemble the 11 performances featured here. And how do they sound? Like a more minimalist yet more generous version of Goldfrapp without the fatal smugness, with a view to deliciously warping R&B and glitch rather than recycling glam rock.
Besides and beneath all the mischief displayed here, though, there is an undertow of melancholy gravity, never better expressed than on the techno fugue of the album’s stunning nine-minute opener, “Same”. Building up from a basic “O Superman”-style one-note loop, Siciliano’s voice emerges from a babble of glitch to state mournfully: “You don’t look the same.”
Other musical elements are added one at a time, and the rhythm very artfully evolves from jazz to samba to deep house and finally to a grieving orchestral climax, Siciliano all the time sounding as though she’s about to be swallowed up by her laptop.
Her radical recasting of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” is almost worth the price of the album in itself. With only nodding melodic references to the original, Siciliano instead offers a sultry Latin mood, underscored by a lugubrious French horn arrangement and a rhythm which seems to be made from samples of a gun loading (“And I swear I don’t have a gun”). As with Prince, the defining factor in Siciliano’s music is what she leaves out; consider “Walk The Line”, where her emotionally blank vocals (very No Wave) are met by lunging synth belches which seem to have escaped from a 1991 rave. Similarly, songs like “Extra Ordinary” and “Red” are just that crucial spoonfed beat away from being hits for Britney or Xtina, though here Siciliano understands that suggesting a beat is often far sexier than mechanically emphasising it (“I just can’t get by on insincerities”). “Extra Ordinary”, in particular, with its faux-coy vocal and catchy but lethal chorus, could almost be an updated Lynsey De Paul (and that’s meant as a compliment).
“All The Above”, a vocal duet with guitarist O Mugison, updates Grace Jones'”Libertango” for the faceless age (“To forgive is to forget…all the above make love”) while “She Say Clich