Gareth Dickson: The Dance
Gareth Dickson

No, The Dance is not Gareth Dickson taking an abrupt ‘disco' turn, nor is it the formal follow-up to his splendid Collected Recordings set that Drifting: Falling issued in mid-2009. The obvious difference is that whereas the earlier release featured vocal-based pieces along with a few instrumentals, the new recording dispenses with vocals altogether. That might disappoint admirers of Collected Recordings, given how appealing Dickson's singing voice is and how central it is to that recording's appeal. But the other half of the equation—his steel-stringed acoustic guitar playing—is a strong selling-point unto itself, and we get ten fine samplings of it on the new release. Dickson can pick with the best of'em, but The Dance is no self-indulgent exercise in posturing or pyrotechnics. Regardless of whether vocals appear or not, Dickson's focus remains on song form, and his compositional voice never fails to come through clearly.

The music's intimate, homespun character is reinforced by the ambient sounds—tape hiss, the creak of a chair, et al.—that filter into the recording, but such sounds don't get in the way of the glistening guitar sound that dominates the thirty-five-minute recording. Settings range from the bluesy (“The Dance”) and the contemplative (“Little Miller”) to the high-spirited (“Electro-Harmonix”) and ruminative (“Plen Ploth”), and moods alternate between mysterious and jaunty in a single piece. Though brief, “Salvia Space” makes an impression with dreamy rising and falling patterns that exude a rather Nino Rota-esque character. One of the reasons Dickson was drawn to the idea of an instrumental project was that instrumentals, by nature more abstract than vocal settings, don't constrain the listener's range of associations in the way lyrics-based songs do and are thus less intrusive to certain states of mind than vocal songs can be. With a vocal-based collection no doubt planned for future release, The Dance for now offers a glimpse of another side of Dickson's artistry.

October 2010