Dalot: Ancestors

Ancestors' sole weakness likes in the cohesiveness department—how it could be otherwise when half of the EP (actually more a full-length given that it includes twenty-two minutes of Dalot material plus twenty-five of remixes) features five originals and the other half three remixes of the same track? But in every other respect Maria Papadomanolaki's latest effort succeeds in offering a goodly sum of pleasures to the ears. In keeping with the titular theme, the recording's a bit of a family affair for Papadomanolaki, as her partner Apostolos Voulgarakis and niece Marisa Pendarakis add guitar and violin, respectively, to separate tracks. Even the cover illustration is consistent in that regard, with Violetta Testacalda having incorporated two of Papadomanolaki's grandfather's photographs (found, incidentally, in the drawers of a desk of his that had been left untouched since 1996) into the design. Recorded in early 2013 and inspired by those old photographs, Dalot's originals perpetuate the wide-ranging electroacoustic style she's pursued in her previous work.

The brief prelude “Flood” presumably alludes to the Proustian flood of memories that the discovery of long-lost family artifacts will engender, but it's the second piece, “Ancestors,” that's more arresting. Enhanced dramatically by the ethereal whisper of Izumi Suzuki (aka Linda Bjalla), the meditation charts a dreamlike path through a painterly haze of piano, strings, and guitar washes. In keeping with his customary practice, Brock Van Wey later turns his bvdub rendering of the track into a towering, strings- and vocals-drenched epic whose fourteen ultra-emotive minutes can't help but make the other versions seem secondary, as good as they are. Following bvdub, Dryft opts first for a loping treatment that oozes a subtle hip-hop vibe before amping it up in the second-half with a high-velocity pulse, while Northcape recasts it as a widescreen IDM-ambient moodscape of brooding character.

Though titles such as “Staircase” and “Night Owl” seem to refer to specific incidents in Dalot's personal history, the music itself conveys a less literal character and instead more allusively conjures moods—some wistful, others haunted and turbulent—through their unfolding, whether it be the woozy, strings-laden dronescape “Staircase” or the spectral sweep of “Night Owl” where cellist Sebastien Froment plays alongside woodland night whistles. Papadomanolaki's fondness for acoustic instruments is evident in her tendency to weave cello, violin, and guitar textures into her otherwise blurry electroacoustic settings. Such a move can make a huge difference, as borne out by the contributions of cellist Alexandr Vatagin and guitarist Voulgarakis to “That Was Now.”

December 2013