Dot Allison: When Doves Sigh


WHEN DEATH in Vegas frontman Richard Fearless introduced himself to Scottish singer Dot Allison two years ago, the idea was to make sweet music together in a strictly literal sense, i.e., collaborate on songs for Allison’s moody poptronic solo debut. Instead, romance bloomed. “We talked about working together, then immediately changed the subject,” Allison says. “There was chemistry from the start. Even now, we’ll go out on separate record-buying missions and come back with the exact same tracks.” In the end, Fearless and his partner, Tim Holmes, cowrote ‘Morning Sun’ for Allison’s resultant Afterglow; she reciprocated by lending her breathy, snow-white tones to ‘Dirge’ on Death in Vegas’s The Contino Sessions.

Allison’s First group, One Dove, emerged from Glasgow’s ’80s house-music underground, which may explain why their name sounded suspiciously like “white doves”, a legendary brand of Ecstasy. (“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t enjoy the ambiguity of the name,” she says.) Soon, their blissed-out dance pop made them darlings of the early ’90s Balearic scene, which included Primal Scream, Saint Etienne, and Junior Boy’s Own, and eventually evolved into Big Beat. One Dove were also inspired by such far-flung sources as dub reggae and country — a bizarre blend that still informs Allison’s “non-compartmentalized” approach to music.

“I wanted Afterglow to be like [the Beach Boys’] Pet Sounds, where there’s a myriad of colors — emotional and musical — running through it,” she says. Hence the motley crew of songwriting partners and guest players involved, ranging from fiftysomething pop wordsmith Hal David (of Bacharach and David fame) to My Bloody Valentine guitar fiend Kevin Shields. But the album’s somber highlight, ‘I Wanna Feel the Chill’, is Allison on her own. Featuring an eerie Tim Buckley guitar sample and a sly lyrical nod to Dusty Springfield, the song is what Allison calls “a sort of psychedelic shanty.” “It’s raw — you can hear my chair creaking when I play the piano,” she says.

Thanks to her music-teacher mum, Allison is a skilled multi-instrumentalist who grew up in a house with two pianos. “They weren’t in good shape, though,” she says. “They had different notes missing, and on certain songs you had to run next door if you wanted to play the chorus!”

© Simon ReynoldsSpin, October 1999

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