Sophie Dickinson played at one of the first house shows I ever attended in Boston- I sat on a stranger’s living room floor, transfixed, as she improvised over incidental tape hiss. She evoked another world, one of fluid structures and disparate recollections. The songs ended with the tape punch, sometimes in the middle of snowy snippets of conversation, but would begin again from the same spot, or in the midst of another tape’s progression. This juxtaposition of time and musical time really struck me.
Dickinson’s new record on Whitehaus Family Record preserves this organic experience. Whispers, reel hum, birdsong, and domestic sounds thread together in odd phasing. Musical allusions leap from song to song: the palm-spanned Satie sway in “North End Bride”; the hollow British isle balladry (and even clavichord arpeggiation) in “Oh Ba / O’er Yon Hill”; the muted clusters and hints of pentatonic guzheng in “Soapy Dish in Sink.”
The overall effect is one of subconscious multiplicity: the ear negotiates concurrent flows of perceptions that align and conflict serendipitously, assembling a “whole” or drifting between differences (like a “choose your own adventure” read straight through). The cyclical return of found sounds, the sparse appearances of the voice, and the warm resonance of the harp bend around each other in the immediate memory. And then everything is suddenly snapped off.