Dani Siciliano: Slappers

Dani Siciliano's Slappers, the follow-up to her 2004 debut Likes …, clearly shows she's a whole lot more than Matthew Herbert's favourite chanteuse (she's graced Around The House, Bodily Functions, Goodbye Swingtime, and Scale, among others). The new album's experimental pop makes forays into eccentric techno (the sprightly “Wifey”), woozy jazz-funk (“They Can Wait,” with—shades of Herbert—drummer Leo Taylor playing a Siciliano-created kit made of high school 'True Love Waits' promise rings), and—most unusually—down-home country blues (“Why Can't I Make You High?” where Siciliano's rasp is joined by Ingrid and Kitty of cult teen band Kitty, Daisy and Lewis). The title cut, a sexy call-and-response vamp whose soul-funk backing of creaks, rumbles, and, clapping noises (apparently slapped asses), presents her as a one-woman vocal army, with a typical song shadowing her insouciant lead with multi-tracked harmonies.

Even though there's nothing as arresting as Likes…' Nirvana cover “Come As You Are,” Slappers' songwriting is compelling, the arrangements parade a never-ending stream of ideas and imagination, and Siciliano's voice is remarkable, a versatile instrument capable of navigating the widest spectrum of emotion—languor (“Frozen”), sultriness (“Didn't Anybody Tell You”), regret (“Too Young”), seductiveness, insouciance—in a single song. Having said all that, the album satisfies less for being over-produced (Herbert contributes album production, but Siciliano handles the lion's share). The amount of detail in a given three-minute arrangement is impressive but also overwhelming, so much so that one longs for a less cluttered approach. A whirlpool of clanging accents and swizzling synths threatens to drown her urgent vocal during the jittery “Think Twice” while industrial clangour in the sultry electro-vamp “Big Time” makes it seem as if she's singing from a factory's center. Consequently, the alluring intimacy of her voice is depleted when surrounded by such density; the subtler “Repeats,” where understated woodwind touches complement the song's dreamy fluidity, is all the more refreshing when heard amidst such overkill. By comparison, recall how lovely it was to hear that crystal voice float so languidly over an unobtrusive background during the debut's “Remember To Forget.” Put simply, a sparser production style would allow her fabulous singing to be better appreciated.

September 2006