At the end of last year, the Guardian declared Beatrice Dillon “the most thrilling new voice in British electronic music”, and her first full-fledged solo LP, Workaround, demonstrates why. Put together during stolen moments over three years, it feels as though it’s been in the works for even longer. She released a solo mini-album in 2014 and has busied herself with collaborations, DJ sets and art commissions since. Her musical knowledge came through countless hours absorbing music as a record shop assistant. Visual art, literary and other cross-media influences began to crystallise some time after her fine art studies, lending themselves to her installation work. Dillon’s defining feature, however, is the insatiable curiosity for sound that sees her follow sonic leads to their unpredictable ends and beyond. Playful percussion and electro-acoustic experiments are central to her records with Rupert Clervaux, with dubby, jazz-tinged house and techno coming into focus on her club-peripheral productions.
Playing as part manifesto, part beats tape, Workaround expands upon the global future-folk ideas present in electronic composer Sote’s Parallel Persia, or Dust by Laurel Halo (whose vocals and synths also feature here).
Interplay between Dillon’s computer and her collaborators’ samples and instruments – from tabla and kora to pedal steel guitar and cello – give the album its colour, though her use of space is its foundation. Rather than let reverb and echo lumber to inertia, she tightens up on the air supply: synths become breathless, fibrous string textures dry out and the bass is punchy yet weightless. All tracks clock in at the dizzyingly fast-slow tempo of 150bpm (somewhere between techno and jungle) and it’s in this high-altitude, crisp-air atmosphere that Dillon sculpts lithe contortions such as tabla-as-bass or kora-as-percussion. The results are delightfully surreal: Workaround Four, for example, could pass as cloud rap gleaned from the negative of a Timbaland instrumental.
Outmanoeuvring its academic concepts, Workaround is effervescent, full of swing and full of heart, and Dillon never compromises on the emotion and soul stemming from its dub roots. Its triumphant sound comes from the artist’s clear joy in realising these compositions, which shines through every exuberant moment.