Rachael Dadd composes songs in a purely unique way. Merging pop and left-field folk with exotic influences from afar, she playfully pieces-together experimental ideas and sounds to craft stand-alone, musical mosaics.
Dadd’s earliest stripped-back, four-track recordings have developed over the years into all out, collaborative affairs. ‘We Resonate’ Dadd’s fourth LP sees her joined by an array of popular folk talent. Alessi Laurent-Marke (Alessi’s Ark), Emma Gatrill (Sons of Noel and Adrian), Thomas Heather (Woodpecker Wooliams), Rozi Plain and Marcus Hamblett (who pitches in basically everywhere, most recently with Laura Marling) all visited the Dadd homestead to contribute. Not forgetting of course Rachael’s husband, experimental Japanese multi-instrumentalist Ichi. During the songs ‘What Have You Made’ and ‘I Am Your Home’ you can almost feel the energy and changeability of the artists’ minds at work.
Combine this with the unpredictable nature of her field recordings and the curious clamour of her prepared-piano and you’ve got music that accurately embodies the ever changing, excitement and challenges of everyday life. As she explains:
“Combining pop with experimentation opened up a chasm of light and shade. The two contrasting elements highlight one another, accentuate the tones, make surprises. I love seeing contradiction in things and in people and love hearing it in music. I’m excited by the realms of possibility in music, so much ground untrodden.”
Now, after listening to ‘We Resonate’ you could describe Dadd as an established ‘wordsmith’. However you wouldn’t be using the phrase in the traditional sense. What makes these twelve tracks so alluring is the way Rachael dissects and contorts every single word. She stretches and shortens them, plays with each phoneme and then fashions her own rhythmical language out of repetition, all the while masterfully flitting around the pentatonic scale and pirouetting between semitones.
The innocence of Rachael’s accent and the soft lilt of her vocals across the LP make it easy to draw Regina Spector comparisons. Whereas her oral acrobatics often resemble the fitful movements of Merril Garbus of ‘tUnE-yArDs’ and Amelia Meath of ‘Mountain Man’ and ‘Sylvan Esso’. Yet, Dadd’s idiosyncratic style is still solely her own.
It is well introduced from the off, as fingers tap away at a typewriter on album opener, ‘Make A Sentence’. A song focused on the inclusive nature and importance of communication: ‘I’m an alien, you’re an alien, we are aliens, so talk… you are not alone’. The gentle build of ‘Bounce The Ball’, the polyrhythmic perfection of ‘Wake It’ and the ‘Ca-ca-ca-coo-chorus’ of ‘Strike Our Scythes’ are also other fine examples of her beguiling word warping.
Rachael’s cited Sufjan Stevens as an influence in the past and this can definitely be heard on ‘I Am Your Home’ with its fast-paced handclaps and billowing brass. Its expansive and experimental sound even shares an affinity with Arcade Fire’s earliest demos and EP, in the way that it fills one with hope and unexplainable faith.
‘We Resonate’ also has its deeper, darker and more profound moments.
Rachael sighs in ‘Tap The Sap’: ‘More will do wrong, who will do right first’ and on ‘Animal Mineral’ she ponders the consequences of advancements in technology with: “Oh these cars and motorbikes, blood is gushing from the stone, once we were stone upon stone upon stone long ago”. ‘Our Arms’ is especially poignant as it focuses on the devastating tsunami that struck Japan. The imagery of the rising water and the static of unanswered walkie-talkies is quite harrowing.
“You’ve got to have light and dark to make something truthful, to make something resonate. I was living in Japan when the tsunami hit and the Fukushima nuclear plant blew up. Witnessing the Japanese peoples’ strength, positivity and collaboration in the face of threat influenced my songwriting.”
As Rachael states above, it is the light and the dark elements that make something relatable and lifelike and this is certainly what she’s achieved with ‘We Resonate’. ‘Let It Rise’, the final song on the album verifies this with the optimistic: “We can rise above all of these buildings and when we fall back down, it can be the right place”.
Review by: David Weir
We Resonate is released via Talitres on 17 November.
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