Stephanie Dosen: American singer songwriter, member of groundbreaking Christian Trance group Virus, knitwear designer, singer with Massive Attack and the Chemical Brothers, collaborator with Cocteau Twins and Bella Union’s Simon Raymonde on her second solo album, A Lily For The Spectre 2007. It’s an impressive résumé and she continues to have an impact with this her latest release. It’s another collaboration with Simon Raymonde, he wrote the music, she wrote the words and the melodies.
Moon is a diaphanous, airy, folky Cocteau Twins with delicate instrumentation and fairytale melodies. The albums begins with, I Heard The Owl Call, this is pop music from the land of the giant flowers and although it has some standard bass and drums, there’s atmosphere and melody. It’s almost Enya if she was a little mad – it’s a thin line between bland and beautiful and I find this album to be an enticing wonder that sits comfortably on the slightly weird side – the Cocteau Twins side, rather than the overproduced Celtic wash.
Evocative titles; the second track, All Wishes Are Ghosts is seductive, breathy and angelic and reminds me of early Pink Floyd – Side 2 of Atom Heart Mother era.
The next song, Charming Birds From Trees manages to find room for pedal steel, an instrument you would never hear in the Cocteau Twins but wouldn’t be amiss with Dave Gilmour.
Where Foxes Hide finds Dosen sharing some of the warbles in her vibrato that she might have found in a draw at Raymonde’s house, marked Elizabeth. But Dosen’s harmonizing with herself and singing counter melodies cascading and swooping in and out of verses is also reminiscent of my old band mate, All About Eve’s Julianne Regan in delicacy and ambition.
Amelia is another example of her vocal arrangements with simple piano and bass as backing. She doesn’t save these arrangements as dynamic builds for songs, meaning she doesn’t bring them in, during the second verse or the chorus- she’s there from the start with her other ethereal self, her mirror twin, her fantasy princess companion is with her at all times.
Bears On My Trail has a little of Kate Bush’s younger, quieter less dramatic sister. I can’t hear many of the lyrics and would hope that the album included them as snippets break out of the gossamer webs that surround the music. The music sounds like it may have come from the corridors of a bejewelled palace.
Porcelain is the video, the single – an impossible necessity and with this kind of music they have chosen another piece that might be a quieter less dramatic, younger sister of Elizabeth Fraser and this is the point – all these adored beautiful aesthetically pleasing, sophisticated, otherworldly singers are older make hardly any or no records anymore and Stephanie Dosen does – and thank heaven.
Come To The Woods is a 6/8 invitation into the dreams that float around the forest. The only problem with Stephanie Dosen is that there is only one of her and although she also sings beautifully live, she can’t ever reproduce this orchestra of voices that is her domain in the studio. Guitars thrash – but softly – Ed O’brien and Phillip Selway of Radiohead play on the album as well as members of Midlake; guitarist Eric Pulido and drummer McKenzie Smith and Paul Gregory from Bella Union band Lanterns On The Lake. Also appearing on the record is the ubiquitous Jonathan Wilson, again apart of a gorgeous record that is reminiscent of something else.
We Carry White Mice reminds me of a confused dream of movies, a song from a musical Western with cartoon Disney mild (not wild) howling coyote ghosts.
In Lovely, is the closest you get to hearing her as a human and not a translucent fleeting sprite. Electric guitar and piano, she sings those high notes so beautifully it melts your heart.
The album ends with Heart Of The Woods, drum machine, guitar bass and muted trumpet but in the background – she sits at the front of the song and when I say sits, I mean she sits down when she sings, it’s not standing up music – to listen to or to sing.
The whole album is followed by a remix by “Michigan’s electronic luminary” RX Gibbs with new interpretations of the songs. I imagine sent into the studio with creative free reign and covering a potential new audience that needs this kind of trickery. I would probably have liked this if it were all there was but happily I can personally enjoy this record much more in its original state, watching the leaves fall off the trees in the autumn in slow motion or listening to the voices of the wind in the trees in a magical forest, or perhaps just when I’m immersing myself eyes closed in the intoxicating beauty of this music, the voice, the moon and the melodies.