Review : Beth Ditto - EP
SputnikmusicOf course Beth Ditto made a dance-pop record. What with her high-pitched and able set of pipes, scrappy cool, and gay iconicity, this was an inevitability. The sheer panache of EP, though, isn't something to be taken for granted - oh, no. The four songs on Ditto's debut solo effort are uniformly irresistible, their production (courtesy of Simian Mobile Disco) serving as a basic sonic constant. These beats thump proudly in all their analog glory while synth lines plink their way into your ears - only to remain there for days. It's telling that this record sounds best in its longer, floor-friendly iteration; the cuts on the wider release are more efficient and hook-centric, sure, but Ditto's earworms are most successful when they've a luxurious space to breathe in. Compared to its eight-minute incarnation, the single-ready version of "Goodnight, Good Morning" feels almost slight. Almost - because Ditto's vocal performance is at once both bracing and fragile enough to uncannily capture hazy late-night dubiety, and because the song's got a melody that Madonna circa "Like a Virgin" would kill for.
For its obvious melodic strengths, though, EP is a tease, slowly removing one layer at a time until its heart is revealed - ice-cold but definitely beating. "Don't leave me hanging," Ditto intones, only to later instruct, "just take it slow." It's just one of the many coy come-ons found here, which would prove frustrating were it not for Ditto's effortless sultriness. It's initially strange that this disc finds Mary Beth Patterson in a soft-edged, seductive mode, given that her work with Gossip is more philosophically in line with riot grrrl, but artificiality proves an able vehicle for Ditto's fierce perspective. The methodology behind that worldview is conveniently summed up on the record's lone single: "I wrote the book on it, don't test me." Dogmatic? Sure, but endearingly so - and besides, Ditto's delivery is impressively convincing. She boldly challenges ("the run-around will wear you out / you'll break it off, I'll break you down") and detachedly advises ("the world is full of good intentions / paradise is full of lies") in equal measure, neatly embodying the yin and yang of hookups, relationships, whatever. That all this is done with razor-sharp, almost dead-eyed precision is all the more remarkable.
That's what's most interesting about Ditto's voice: in its feathery slightness, it displays just how short the distance is between confidence and uncertainty. "Do You Need Someone" is my favorite song here because of how easily it flits between the passive braggadocio of its verses and the frosty almost-compassion of its chorus. Listening to it, I'm never entirely sure if the "she" Ditto keeps referring to is herself, a rival, or some combination of the two; the resultant tension is utterly intoxicating. And what better setting for such emotional pussyfooting than the club, forever the smoky meeting point for lonely souls and hungry ones? Indeed, those aforementioned analog pops are the perfect soundtrack to that place "where the evening comes undone", where the promise of a lengthened evening always lingers, and where emptiness relentlessly threatens to be a bedfellow. Ditto is the enigmatic temptress standing at the door, and it's a crying shame that she's indicated that EP is a one-off - the role suits her magnificently....full text
SlantmagazineHeavy on bass and disco-diva pomp, Beth Ditto's first venture away from modern dance-punk pioneers Gossip should go some way to fortifying her status as an indie star. The messy arrangements and lo-fi production that accentuated Standing in the Way of Control, and to a lesser extent Music for Men, is banished to make way for Simian Mobile Disco's polished electro, a move which suits Mary Beth Patterson's soulful vocals. Ditto's short yet extraordinarily sweet self-titled EP is festooned with enough sonorous grooves and throbbing basslines to fill a full-length album, boasting the Gossip songstress's most danceable tunes to date.
One could almost predict that this sleek electro-pop sound would be the natural progression for Ditto's erstwhile outfit as they continue to trim their use of guitars and organic percussion, and there's been no indication so far that theirs was a broken formula. Moreover, this can't be a case of Ditto wanting to take center stage: She's always been Gossip's main attraction, her voice the subject of the foremost critical acclaim. In teaming up with Simian Mobile Disco, though, it allows her to finally become the sultry disco diva she's always threatened to be.
The guttural hollers and rock-star ticks are not welcome here, as Ditto embraces a more restrained and tuneful approach to her prose. On "Do You Need Someone" and "Goodnight, Good Morning," she flaunts a beguiling falsetto, while "I Wrote the Book" sees her narrating a tale of romances gone awry with a composed and confident tone. There's nothing excessive or overblown to her approach, which works both to broaden her appeal and draw attention to her versatility as a vocalist.
Despite wearing the crown of music's most feral female talent, Ditto excels with EP because of her straightforward singing. She is near pitch-perfect with every turn, and seems to relish the opportunity to flex her vocal cords in this electronic environment. If this sort of form can be captured with the next Gossip record, or a balance can be struck between the group's raw energy and Ditto's newfound sleekness, then we'll be in for a real treat....full text
IndependentDescribed by her as akin to a sanctioned, temporary affair adding extra spice to her long-term relationship with Gossip, this four-track collaboration with Simian Mobile Disco plays to a different side of Beth Ditto's talent – one where her usual raw-throated rock power is restrained within the context of scudding electropop grooves. Though inspired by Grace Jones's new-wave disco torch-songs, the results are markedly dissimilar: Ditto's far too engaged a singer to emulate Jones's aloof cool, her tremulous vibrato animating "I Wrote the Book" and the uncertain emotional terrain of "Do You Need Someone", where she has to "bite my tongue, my feelings under lock and key". Indeed, over the languid, loping synth-bass groove of "Goodnight Good Morning", she sounds uncannily like Madonna....full text
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