Dot Allison: Experimental Breakbeat Diva

THERE HAVEN’T been many Dots in pop — Dot Cotton from EastEnders has yet to commit to vinyl — so when you hear the name Dot Allison it’s like accessing a long-lost Internet website. Co.Dot.Uk-click.

Dot, y’see, was the enchanting singer in One Dove, seminal early-Nineties Balearic beatnicians who caught the post-Screamadelica Zeitgeist immaculately with their Weatherall-produced Morning Dove White album. If The Orb were for post-club stargazing, One Dove were dubwise, soul-searching chillmongers. They drew plaudits from the Primals to Underworld, but then all but disappeared. What happened, Dot?

“We had problems with our label and some internal bad feeling, so we all got a bit jaded,” says the winsome chanteuse, as we chat in London’s Soho one afternoon. “We’d started writing a second album, but by then it had fractured into three people writing separate stuff. It lost the innocence of that first venture.”

Dot walked away from everything in One Dove, including all the gear, but still holds fond memories of the project.

“It was definitely a magical time,” she remembers, sounding like Ruth in EastEnders. “It felt like the spearhead of something really big, and it was. As a result of it, there’s a huge genre of dance music now. Ten years later — like with everything that’s quality and exciting — it gets accessed by all and sundry and people move on.”

Dot was initially scared of going solo: “I definitely enjoyed being behind that veneer of a band, though I was never really the decision-maker. So I left One Dove for a number of reasons — I owed it to myself as a songwriter to be able to assert what I wanted and have it considered.”

She had to sign on after One Dove and spent four months in a wheelchair after a serious car accident.

“But there was something non-scary about being on your ass, because the only way was up,” she says. “I went from month to month, trying not to look at the bigger picture.”

Spending time building a home studio set-up and moving from Edinburgh to London, Dot followed her dream to exist on the experimental pop margins.

“Not having to write with a group is liberating,” she says. “It’s like a huge weight off my shoulders not having to deal with the internal ego problems. But at the same time there’s a lot of women in pop who are happy to just be an ornamental factor. Having been in a band with two guys, nobody thought I could do what I’ve done without them.”

Did that piss her off?

“Yeah, because there’s so many women happy to just look pretty in front of a band,” she asserts. “I’d like to see more women getting a sampler or a guitar and working for it.”

Dot’s fab first single, ‘Mo’Pop’, is a gorgeous, summery Saint Etienne-y ditty, with a sanguine French segment in the middle.

“It’s an unrequited love song,” she explains, “and there’s no other hidden meaning in the French bit, really. It just says, ‘Sometimes you crush me’, and it’s about the mixed signals of being in love. Like when you have something really precious in your hand that you want to hold onto really tight, but if you do, you destroy it.” Oh yes.

Elsewhere on forthcoming album Afterglow, though, you’ll find the edgy Portishead-isms of ‘Melted’, ethereal Björk-ish experimentation, and pensive, meaningful breakbeat-noir.

According to Dot, they’re “mainly love songs, and songs about growth, change and rebirth”.

The Maker suggests she’s a technoed-up Dusty Springfield — and therefore less open to manipulation — for the Nineties.

“I’d love to have done a duet with her,” she enthuses. “I love Dusty’s voice. I’d like to be a jewel in the mud of pop.”

© Carl LobenMelody Maker, 20 March 1999

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