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Dani Siciliano - Likes...

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Artist: Dani Siciliano

Album: Likes...

Label: !K7

Review date: Jan. 14, 2004

Dani Siciliano has generally been known as Matthew Herbert’s significant other for the past few years, but no longer. After setting up her own studio and learning the recording arts, Siciliano is stepping out with her debut solo album Likes.... Working with Herbert as producer, Siciliano has taken an unusual approach to create a blend of singer-songwriter, electronic experimentation, and avant atmospherics.

On “Same,” for example, Siciliano loops a vocal sample over clicking percussion, then smothers it in fluttering synth waves. The results remind me a bit of Cabaret Voltaire’s early-’80s work, minimal and haunting. When her sung vocals come in, they’re spare and simple, often faded back so they’re just another sonic layer. The song risks outstaying its welcome at over nine minutes, but its slow mutations make it worth the time and it ends up as the best song on the album.

Certainly, one can’t help but think of Nico’s later work, particularly Camera Obscura with its electronic foundation. While Siciliano’s vocals have some of the same feeling of ennui, the ultimate impression is clearly more upbeat, headed more for space than the grave.

The second song is an unexpected cover of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” and the courage to take it on under such a different approach must be applauded. Given a shuffling, lounge rhythm and – of all things – French horn, this could have ended up as no more than an amusing curiosity. Siciliano’s world-weary, smoky voice ends up oddly reminiscent of Cobain’s own, and while, indeed the song is a bit self-consciously ironic, it’s ultimately pretty successful on its own terms.

The ragged, robotic rhythms of “Walk the Line” could almost be a Timbaland production, with Siciliano’s voice given an artificial echo. Its mechanical chanting lends the song a bump-and-grind that promises heavy dancefloor play. “One String” is the reverse, a briefly playful piece of electronic tones, plinking and echoing around one another.

“All the Above,” a vocal duo with Mugison, moves a bit slowly, and doesn’t have quite enough melody to sustain its length. The accordion that enters partway through, lending it a gypsy-polka feel, helps somewhat but still leaves the song in need of something else. “Extra Ordinary” fares better, a chugging percussion and keyboard rhythm over which Siciliano’s voice chants and calls out, sometimes double-tracked and echoing itself. The noir atmosphere of “Collaboration” clanks and hisses beneath breathy, offhanded vocals.

Likes... uses plenty of interesting, sparse rhythms and samples to form the songs’ frameworks, but the skeletal melodies often fall flat. While generally enjoyable, many of these songs fade quickly from memory.

By Mason Jones

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