PERMANENT RECORDS: MY HAND ON MY HEART, MY HEAD IN A FEVER...
Today I begin a 52-week year-long project running from this, the first Friday in January, all the way to the last Friday next December, 12/29/06. Each week, I will be writing about one album, making it 52 at the end. Like a deck of cards that sing and play drums.
This is not my idea. This is Chris Tamarri's idea, the man behind the blog Crisis/Boring Change, which is far more excellent than its title, which I think is a comic book thing. He started this back in November, christening it "Permanent Records," and I e-mailed him immediately and said, "What a great idea. I want to do this." He may have started a new blog meme without knowing it, the little devil. Go over to his site and read his manifesto, and then bookmark it so you can check in on what makes his list. So far he has six up, and while I only like half of the records, his thoughts on the other three make for no less interesting a read.
My approach is going to be a little different, a little less structured. I am going to keep the field wide open. An album I choose any given week might be new or old, it might be random, it might be whatever has crawled off the shelf and possessed me for the given week. (There will be a couple placed in reserve just in case a week sees me traveling or stuck in a crisis or whatnot; always be prepared.) I have several thousand compact discs, and who knows how many records and albums on mp3, so I have no shortage of material. I won't promise that I won't repeat bands--though certainly when it's down to a choice between two, that will play into it--but I will endeavor to bring more than just the usual suspects to the line-up (it'll be hard enough not to get repetitive without writing about every Smiths record ever released). And there will be no restrictions to how I write about the record, as long as I write. I will also be adding a feature to the meme in the form of the "Notable B-Side." It's exactly what it sounds like. When one of the record's singles has a particularly special B, it will get its due.
52. ONE DOVE - MORNING DOVE WHITE (1993)
Personnel: Dot Allison (vocals), Ian Carmichael (keyboards), Jim McKinven (electronics)
Producer: Andrew Weatherall & One Dove / Label: FFRR
The first few times I heard One Dove, it was like receiving a transmission from another planet. It was my first summer out of college, and I was living with my sister's family about an hour out of Los Angeles, commuting to Hollywood every day to work in grimy office across the street from the Chinese Theatre and conduct phone surveys about movies. If in 1993 you received a phone call from somebody with a gender-ambiguous voice asking if you like to go to the movies, it might have been me.
I left the house every morning at 7 a.m. and got home at 7 p.m. My sister's house was tucked away behind some hills, at the far end of a road that was paved only part of the way. Once I crossed a certain line in my journey, radio reception was always dicey, which was too bad because KCRW out of Santa Monica had a nighttime show that played chilled dance music by bands no one had ever heard of. For several weeks straight, the DJ played One Dove seemingly every night, but rarely at a point where I could really hear them. They were crackly and distant, cutting in and out as my car was jostled by potholes and jack rabbits made daredevil runs across the road in front of me, strange news from another star.
Pretty soon, One Dove started showing up in the British magazines. The praise was pretty much unanimous, and a lot of the attention was due to the production work of Andrew Weatherall. The album, Morning Dove White, was being touted as the follow-up to his work with Primal Scream on Screamadelica. To be honest, for a long time, I didn't even know he wasn't in the band. I thought it was like, him and Dot Allison and one other bloke. At least from what I saw, they weren't exactly a group that pushed themselves to the foreground as people. They don't even list their names on the inlay card of the CD.
Their record, however, genuinely was outstanding, a case of hype meeting reality and the two getting on like bandits. Morning Dove White is one of those special musical moments where, as the disc spins, it carves out an ever-widening circle of existence, creating a space around the listener that is self-contained and outside of regular life. Like the musicians have opened up a door into a secret dimension and let you in.
Listening to Morning Dove White is like walking home at 3 a.m. It's late enough that most people are indoors and asleep, but not so late that the streets are entirely empty and some lights are still on. You've just left the city proper, you're going from straight-up business and commerce areas, starting to see some apartment buildings, each step taking you closer to home. Then, the person you are with leans in and whispers something in your ear. "I don't know why I'm telling you any of this. One thing is, don't ever tell anyone I told you this. Don't save me, just forgive me. Forgive me, 'cause I was only thinking of you. Just you."
What is this? Where did this secret confession come from? How have circumstances aligned for this moment? The stuttering moans, the percussive flashes coming with wide spaces in between, and these private words leading into a simple sequence of bleeps, and Dot Allison declaring, "I'm falling" in her breathy way. Falling where? Into what? Into the pit of something dark, or in love, or is there any difference?
Morning Dove White is an album of many moods. It's chill-out music, it's dance music, it's the sound of heartbreak and despair. It's private and it's public, putting you alone in a crowded disco, dancing with your eyes closed while fully aware that people are watching. It's beautiful from start to finish. Even the sounds that are ugly sound gorgeous, like the cranky electric guitar intro of "White Love (Guitar Paradise Mix)," Jimi Hendrix with his zipper stuck and he can't get it down, his squeals amplified and sped up. The wailing creates a vast suction, pulling the listener, the drum beats tumbling after, until you land on the other side, and everything gets going good and proper and it sounds like how it feels to be alive. It's followed by the "Cellophane Boat Mix" of "Breakdown," a happy song about heartbreak. Playing on love-song clichés--"And if the moon is an aid to romance everywhere, Why is the night so full of dark despair?"--it packs the dance floor with lovers in need of catharsis. One Dove may be encouraging you to "breakdown and cry," but if you keep moving your feet, it won't happen.
"White Love" and "Breakdown" were the lead singles, and on the U.S. release you get three mixes of the former and two of the latter. The six other songs are ambient sketches of emotions, from the longing of "There Goes the Cure," with its plaintiff piano and mantra of "he's gone," to the sexy yet soulful come-on "Why Don't You Take Me," Allison's voice sitting on top of the mix, tremulous--is that a studio effect or the purity of feeling in her throat? The music takes a back seat, a little bit of a Caribbean flavor, some whistles, shakes from a string of bells. Perhaps the beauty of Morning Dove White is how simple it is. None of the riffs are complicated, the collages aren't over-layered. Weatherall and the band exercise restraint. A little is enough.
When it's all said and done, you've arrived home. You may or may not be alone, but you've emerged from something elegiac and you're ready to sleep, or take on the new day, or whatever is now required. You're back in reality, sure, but the beauty of records like Morning Dove White is you can always return to its perfect embrace.
One Dove never released another album. Apparently they made one, but I haven't heard it (if you have it, hook a brother up). Dot Allison has worked with Death in Vegas and released a couple of solo albums (her song "Tomorrow Never Comes" is on my soundtrack for getting in the right headspace to write Have You Seen The Horizon Lately?). Andrew Weatherall continues to pop-up here and there, most notably with his own band, Sabres In Paradise. But that was it. A moment in time, here and then gone. To return to my original metaphor, like a UFO dropped out of the sky long enough to deliver its cosmic message, and then streaking away.
NOTABLE B-SIDE: There were quite a few mixes of all the singles, but the true lost gem of the pack was on the flipside of "Why Don't You Take Me"--a cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene," long before The White Stripes got the same idea. One Dove combine spacey sounds with a reggae rhythm, creating a backing track reminiscent of the first Orb record. Allison manages to capture a dual emotion in her vocal delivery. She's worried that when she confronts the woman her lover is cheating with it will be a fight she could lose, but she's also defiant. When she tells the cruel-hearted Jolene, "I'm begging of you, please don't take my man," it's as much of a threat as it is a request, the true sentiment of a woman who knows that her rival may be superficially better but is ultimately the wrong choice. Oh, how many times have I wanted to express that?
Current Soundtrack: every One Dove track I have; buy the album, Amazon has plenty of them used, and if you use this link, I'll get a kickback and know that people are actually digging this thing
Current Mood: drunk
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich