Wednesday, May 29, 2024

White Dove Mourning

An interesting review of One Dove's Morning Dove White by Matthew Schnipper, as part of Pitchfork's Sunday Review series of belated reviews (in this case because the site didn't exist when the album came out in 1993). The score of 8.7 is higher than anything it would have received at the time.

At the time, the album was felt to itself be belated -  one of those anticipated albums that takes too long to be made....  (The delay came from a struggle with the record company, who pressurized them to put out more poppified version of the tracks, with radio-friendly mixes).

Reviewers in the UK as I recall felt the album, when it did arrive long after the initial buzz wave, to be underwhelming.... 

Certainly there didn't seem to be anything else on it as amazing as the single “White Love", which appears twice, in the Guitar Paradise Mix and as a reprise.

“White Love” stalled just outside the Top 40.

(They did have a small hit with “Breakdown” after the album’s release).

Listening again, I heard some really lovely tunes that sit somewhere between Saint Etienne and Seefeel – "My Friend”, "There Goes The Cure", “Transient Truth”.

A certain too-pure dream of perfect pop, a distillate of essences too rarified to survive the commercial rough-and-tumble of actual real-world pop…. meets dubby-clubby sounds… wisped through with ultra-breathy ethereal-girliness that places the group near shoegaze. (One reviewer described them as "Cocteau Twins just back from Ibiza").

Part of that Weatherall  moment in UK pop (wasn’t there an initiative called the 98 bpm Movement  slowing the music down from house tempo to a reggae-ish sway?... which would also make it a fellow-traveler with the Bristol sound. *

And then there’s Dot Allison’s voice….  Airy …. almost Medieval at times… a devotional sigh drifting through the cloisters of an abbey....  a sound that joins the dots between Lisa Gerrard and Kirsty Hawkshaw

“Whiteness” is the word.

Despite the dub and house elements, One Dove always seemed a supremely blanched sort of sound

Maybe that’s partly auto-suggestion, from titles like “White Love” and Morning Dove White

But it’s also Dot's pure-as-snow tones.

And it’s also the whiteness of Dot herself...

She looks like she’s made of snow...

A reminder that Scotland is nearer Scandinavia than the South of England.

Talking of the colour white

I can find no confirmation of this out there, but I continue to believe – I wish to believe – that the group are named One Dove as a sly nod to White Doves: an Ecstasy pill of ultra-blissy repute... the kind of pill that makes veterans of a certain era go all “ooh gosh” wistful, pursing their lips and exhaling with the memory rush

                                       As well as "White Doves", there were also Pink Doves and Speckled Doves. According to this drug awareness postcard, though, the Dove wasn't among the highest of MDMA content pills around then.  Perhaps it was just uncut with other things like speed, so it was a purer, cleaner sort of 'classic Ecstasy' lovey-dovey feeling. 

White Dove / "White Love"

Morning Dove White / White Dove Morning…. 

This was music for the afterglow… that 6AM dawn-after-the-rave feeling…. no one around… the city deserted and silent… and you tingling still...  feeling translucent… unbodied... hollowed out by ecstasy

And then the other druggy connotation of “white” would be the “whitey” – a white-out... swooning,  fainting, falling on the floor ….  a pill too strong… or one pill too many

The chorus in “White Love” -  if you can even call that wordless gaseous shiver-shudder a chorus -  sounds like a whitey.... an internal avalanche of bliss...  a deathgasm.

A voice coming, and coming – apart at the seams. Saint Teresa in the throes.**  

Sampled as opposed to sung, this kind of erotic-cosmic oozy-woozy feeling was all over rave tunes  of the era - wordless diva cries and moans, looped into bliss-spasms -  like Shades of Rhythm’s “Sound of Eden”. 

The bliss-spasm isolated / intensified even more on this tune by Pseudo 3


That's where the track titles, the sound, and the look (not just Dot's complexion and hair, but on the album cover she's dressed in white too), all these things converge - a meld, or braid, of spiritual and  erotic.  

Songs like sexy psalms

The idea of "purity" seems to nestle somewhere beneath all this - pure love, pure devotion, a pure dose, the perfect prescription. 

Edinburgh's techno temple Pure. 

The cover could be a morning-after-the-night-before tableau - Dot the sleeping beauty... unable to keep her eyes open, her head from drooping... the Other Chaps wasted and drowsy.

Talking of music for the afterglow....

One Dove's "Fallen" featured on this compilation from a few years ago put together by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs: Fell From the Sun: Downtempo & After Hours 1990-91

A whole bunch of 98-bpm-or-thereabouts tunes described by the label by the label as "comedown downbeat, sunrise indie-dance and woozy morning moods".

 Tracks like The Grid's "Floatation", BBG's Satie-laced "Snappiness", The Aloof's  ‘Never Get Out Of The Boat’, Sheer Taft's "Cascades (Hypnotone Mix)", Moodswings's "Spiritual High".

The comp's timespan – 1990-91 – shows how past-their-moment One Dove were when they finally dropped Morning Dove White in 1993. 

Fell From the Sun fits the Icarian theme of having flown too high, starting to crash... a still glowing ember.  ("Higher Than The Sun" by the Primals is on there). 

The compilation's title though appears to come from the Opal song, as also recorded by Pale Saints. (The latter's name fits the blanched-by-bliss theme).

Not on the Fell from the Sun comp but partaking of the vibe of that time 

That Creation / indie-dance / post-Madchester / UK house nexus 


Afterglow is the name of the first of Dot Allison's - six? seven? -  solo albums.

I did a little interview with her around it for Spin. 

"I Wanna Feel the Chill" was one tune that stood out on a record that otherwise felt a bit subdued by its own good taste.  The eerie guitar lick is sampled from Tim Buckley's "Dream Letter." 

"Chill" - in either of its meanings - again shows an understanding of her thematic matrix.

Exaltation of Larks, from 2007, is another evocative title.

Her latest album Consciousology is on the shoegaze label Sonic Cathedral. 

* Well, I could swear someone telling about a 98 Bpm Movement started by Paul Oakenfold.... but it must have got mangled in the memory: Movement 98 was in fact a Paul Oakenfold project, centered around Carroll Thompson's vocals, and which scored a small UK hit in 1990 with the mid-tempo soul of "Joy and Heartbreak", with melodic elements borrowed from Satie's "Les Trois Gymnopedies".

Odd fact: Rob Davis, formerly the guitarist who wore women's clothing in Mud - was involved as a writer. Later he would make millions as the co-writer of Kylie-smash "Can't Get You Out of My Head".

Teresa of Ávila, 16th Century mystic  - a nun of noble birth, she became famous for her visions and raptures (sometimes involving levitations). Jacques Lacan, French Freudian theorist, wrote about Bernini’s sculpture of Teresa. Malcolm Bowie, paraphrasing Lacan, writes about “an unlocalisable and ineffable pleasure-spasm” that inspires Teresa’s enraptured contortions. 


Ed said...

I loved that album. Listened to it at least once a day for about a year. And when Andy Weatherall died, it was the record I turned to first.

I had a sense that Fallen became a near-hit because it was used on the soundtrack of Showgirls, but I can't find any reference to it online, so maybe that's a false memory. What I did find was that Showgirls used a Young Gods track, which is nice example of both the band and Paul Verhoeven obliterating the boundaries between high and low art, good and bad taste.

Stylo said...

Tangentially, and you may consider this extremely unfair, but the Pitchfork Sunday reviews encapsulate everything that has irked people about the Pitchfork ethos. Clicking through a few of them at random, the lowest score I found was for Shania Twain's Come On Over, at 7.5/10. Firstly, a decimal point? A percentage system is logically equivalent, and nowhere near as ostentatiously annoying. Secondly, the historicism: an album's popularity in 1998 in their logic means it must be respected in 2024. Thirdly, the lack of challenge: I once saw a Sunday review give 10/10 to Dr. Dre's The Chronic, praising it for its political content! In my ignorance, did I fail to appreciate the social message of "Bitches Ain't Shit"? Fourthly, and most obviously, the pretentiousness: it's not even good pretentiousness, it's pointing out that the Foo Fighters emerged during the Clinton era, and therefore that must mean something. Or it's attempting to read deeper significance into the lyrics of Dave Lee Roth, but with one crucial absence, which I'll address now.

Finally and fatally, the utter lack of humour. Do you know why their Jet review of a monkey pissing into its own mouth went viral? It's because Pitchfork had remarkably tried to crack a joke. You could read a hundred reviews on Pitchfork and never come across even a stab at a pun. Their vision is of a solemn, bloodless, grey-shirted, aspirationally curatic reduction of popular music to an upmarket buyers' guide.

Mariah Carey has 5 reviews on Pitchfork, 2 from Sunday reviews. The range of scores runs from 9.0 to 7.3 (for one of Marian Christmas albums). The Happy Mondays have no reviews on Pitchfork. I guess Americans don't buy the Happy Mondays. Also, for that slight, Pitchfork can fuck right off.

Cesar said...

Re: Stylo's comment
Totally agree. Their take that Mariah Carey is as good as / better than, say, the first two Vampire Weekend's albums is ludicrous. And it has done more harm to music and musical criticism than good.

steevee said...

The Sunday review series is one of Pitchfork's better decisions, but it reflects a tendency in recent music criticism. Dismissing popular artists from the past has come to be seen as blinkered and overly judgmental - within the past few weeks aside, we've gotten separate articles arguing that Creed and Lenny Kravitz were treated unfairly - while there's no corresponding attempt to get pop fans to give, say, free improv or death metal a chance. (Of course, this isn't the case with the Sunday reviews, which have given as much space to Jeff Mills and Harry Partch as Carey or Avril Lavigne.) Revising the popular music canon to include more women has been extremely positive for the most part, but it's intersected with a neoliberal feminism that deserves to be questioned. In the film world, taking another look at the canon has resulted in Chantal Akerman, Agnes Varda, Claire Denis and other adventurous female directors making it to the ranks of the GOATs, but in music it's led to Pitchfork calling "Fantasy" the best song of the '90s. They would never make a list placing the Poison Girls or Carla Bley in the top 10 albums of the '80s.

Anonymous said...

I had never heard the movement 98 track at the time but only discovered it recently.I wish I'd heard it back in 1990 and i could've bathed in the track deeply. Better late than never. I guess. It's such a gorgeous track, suffused with a warm afterglow of the second summer of love, before the onslaught of rave.

I never heard, well remember anything by One Dove. Listening now, it's alright but comes across as a bit too contrived or studied. One Dove would've been ideal for Creation records i think.

Anonymous said...

That was an interesting revisionist review in Pitchfork. I wondered if it was related in the algorithm to the sample library that was just released based totally on Dot Allison’s voice.
I’ve always thought it was a pretty weird record.
To me it’s like the quintessential Barnes and Noble music as ad copy, just rock/conservative enough to appeal to a lot of shoppers and electronic enough to be modern.
But the songs are pretty weird. They’re definitely more “modern” than “rock” compared to Mono or Mandalay or that ilk of the time. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, just different. They are drawn out and sort of trippy.

Thirdform said...

interesting write up, but all of this is proto prog house isn't it? Hardly going to be out here defending Derrick May (wrong un etc) but i once read an interview with him at miami/new york music conference 1991 where Tony Wilson heckled him. all your djs in the states don't play under 130 bpm! as if that's a bad thing! meanwhile noone under the age of 50 even remembers mr wilson, unless they are a music nerd of course...

Thirdform said...

it was the new music seminar. i want to read it again cos he called Wilson a flat-arsed motherfucker. These days that's of course read as his arrogance, but well, I probably would have laughed back in the day. Although I'm more of a Mute man, meself, granted.


I don't see a prog house connection particularly - after all One Dove is song-based music, prog house is almost all instrumentalism.

If this sort of cluster (Creation-on-E / Heavenly / Weatherallism / post-Madchester / indie-dance) regrouped anywhere, it would be Big Beat, surely.

So even worse in your eyes, I'd imagine!

Thirdform said...

well william orbit made some early prog house, water from a vine leaf xylem mix, his remix of Sven Vath's accident in Paradise. Weatherall also initially played Drum Club styled prog house in 1992, but quickly moved to harder and darker techno in '93

One Dove explicitly maybe not, but the balearic-y continuum they were part of def had a sort of trippy hippy trancey angle. Balearic is a weird one though, anything half good like Nitzer Ebb gets lumped next to Mandy Smith and u2 lol.

Thirdform said...

but you're probably right that one side of that ended up at big beat, i just don't know enough to trace the continuum. at least according to this article!

Matthew McKinnon said...

The Xylem mix of Water From A Vine Leaf was by Spooky.

They were ‘dub house techno’ on Guerilla but had a really good run 1994-96 doing more interesting, angular stuff.

عروض سفر said...

well william orbit made some early prog house, water from a vine leaf xylem mix, his remix of Sven Vath's accident in Paradise. Weatherall also initially played Drum Club styled prog house in 1992, but quickly moved to harder and darker techno in '93

Thirdform said...

@Matthew McKinnon

You're right, no idea why I had it in my head that William Orbit was in Spooky.

What did mr Orbit do in the late 90s?

Tim 'Space Debris' said...

washed out...bleached out...white out...reminiscent of the "Soon" video...

I'm sure it was quite high up in the Melody Maker Albums of the year poll that you probably voted in...

...It's had the occasional "lost treasure" "underrated gem" "almost classic" write up it seems like every coupla years

Matthew McKinnon said...

I’m guessing you’re joking there…?!
He had a massive career boost producing Madonna and then did that horrible classical-music-with-synths album.
What’s more interesting is what happened to him after THAT.
The most monumental midlife crisis ever…

Thirdform said...

@Matthew McKinnon

Yeah, I was joking. seems to have a penchant to get remixed by trance producers. adagio for strings.

David Gunnip said...

" pop…. meets dubby-clubby sounds… wisped through with shoegazy ethereal-girliness... " that's the essence of it alright! Also the Seefeel mixed with Saint Etienne comparison -- I know the album had a long delay to release but seem to remember it still got a reasonably ecstatic reception when it came out, especially from Melody Maker anyway. The NME maybe not so much. Was just checking the end of year polls there and it didn’t get listed in the NME Top 50 but ME had it at 16. Funnily enough The Face had it in their top 5 and Select at No. 2. Noticing as well that my ‘near mint’ vinyl copy would currently fetch up to €300 on Discogs!

In music press terms 1993 was that funny dividing line/no mans land year of the decade -- the US guitar stuff was getting a bit stale and a lot of different scenes were vying for attention, the indie kids were moving over to ambient and dance music etc.

The Pitchfork Sunday reviews can be enjoyable with some excellent writing but would agree on the whole with Stylo’s criticisms and particularly enjoyed the ‘solemn, bloodless….’ line. Also agree with Steevee – I’m all for neoliberal feminism but not sure it always makes for great music criticism or subject choices on a big online site like Pitchfork. They seemed to change a lot of their editorial team 7 or 8 years back and it’s gone a bit downhill since really, generally speaking. And yes, I have been baffled by some of the ‘historicism’ on a few of the Sunday Review picks – high marks for a lot of mediocre hip hop or US indie guitar / Americana albums from the 90s / 2000s that would barely have had any traction in the UK press back then or else weren’t considered much cop. Was delighted though a few weeks back when Mark Richardson gave ‘This Is The Sea’ a great write up as it was long overdue credit and exposure in the US for Mike Scott.