Pioneering neo classical / electronica band Digitonal were founded by Andy Dobson, clarinetist, soundtrack composer, DJ and keyboard guru and his partner, celebrated violinist Samy Bishai. Drawing comparisons to Orbital, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, their tenth year sees the release of a newly mastered and reworked retrospective album, Be Still My Bleeping Heart.
‘To Be Still’ is the follow up to Alela Diane Menig’s critically acclaimed debut ‘The Pirate’s Gospel.’ ‘To Be Still’ utilizes a fuller sonic palette in creating the world that Menig’s characters inhabit. Although there is more instrumentation on this album, the highlight is still Menig’s voice. Menig is quite capable of going from a husky growl to a delicate mew for emphasis that recalls both Karen Dalton and Joanna Newsome.
The music on ‘To Be Still’ was created between 2007 & 2008 and recorded at her father’s home studio in Nevada City, California. The recording process for Alela Diane was a rather low key and family oriented affair. Her father played on the album with several of their shared musician friends. Family friend and visionary singer Michael Hurley guests on “Age Old Blues.” The album opens casually with a high and lonesome pedal steel on “Dry Grass & Shadows” that sets the weary and ghostly tone throughout the album.
Most of these songs feel like they could have been written 100 years ago, which is an impressive feat for a songwriter so young. “White As Diamonds” and “Age Old Blues” are both spare and mournful. In their simplicity, these songs sound as if they were taken from the Appalachian Mountains. The title track is a calming listen as it yearns for simpler times. As the album progresses, the music and theme becomes heavier both in theme and accompaniment. The moodier side of Alela Diane is evident most notably on “My Brambles” and “The Ocean.” “Every Path” seems to be the spectral cousin of “To Be Still” as both songs echo the theme of returning to a loved one.
‘To Be Still’ is a satisfying listen throughout. It is apparent that each of these songs has been crafted and each benefits from the fuller production. Alela Diane also sounds more assured and confident of her musical direction. “To Be Still” is available February 17 on Rough Trade Records.