‘Workaround’ is the lucidly playful and ambitious solo debut album by rhythmobsessive musician and DJ, Beatrice Dillon for PAN. It combines her love of UK club music’s syncopated suss and Afro-Caribbean influences with a gamely experimental approach to modern composition and stylistic fusion, using inventive sampling and luminous mixing techniques adapted from modern pop to express fresh ideas about groove-driven music and perpetuate its form with timeless, future-proofed clarity.
Recorded over 2017-2019 between studios in London, Berlin and New York, ‘Workaround’ renders a hypnotic series of polymetric permutations at a fixed 150bpm tempo. Mixing meticulous FM synthesis and harmonics with crisply edited acoustic samples from a wide range of guests including UK Bhangra pioneer Kuljit Bhamra (tabla); Pharoah Sanders Band’s Jonny Lam (pedal steel guitar); techno innovators Laurel Halo (synth/vocal) and Batu (samples); Senegalese Griot Kadialy Kouyaté (Kora), Hemlock’s Untold and new music specialist Lucy Railton (cello); amongst others, Dillon deftly absorbs their distinct instrumental colours and melody into 14 bright and spacious computerised frameworks that suggest immersive, nuanced options for dancers, DJs and domestic play.
‘Workaround’ evolves Dillon’s notions in a coolly unfolding manner that speaks directly to the album’s literary and visual inspirations, ranging from James P. Carse’s book ‘Finite And Infinite Games’ to the abstract drawings of Tomma Abts or Jorinde Voigt as well as painter Bridget Riley’s essays on grids and colour. Operating inside this rooted but mutable theoretical wireframe, Dillon’s ideas come to life as interrelated, efficient patterns in a self-sufficient system.
With a naturally fractal-not-fractional logic, Dillon’s rhythms unfold between unresolved 5/4 tresillo patterns, complex tabla strokes and spark-jumping tics in a fluid, tactile dance of dynamic contrasts between strong/light, sudden/restrained, and bound/free made in reference to the notational instructions of choreographer Rudolf Laban. Working in and around the beat and philosophy, the album’s freehand physics contract and expand between the lissom rolls of Bhamra’s tabla in the first, to a harmonious balance of hard drum angles and swooping FM synth cadence featuring additional synth and vocal from Laurel Halo in ‘Workaround Two’, while the extruded strings of Lucy Railton create a sublime tension at the album’s palatecleansing denouement, triggering a scintillating run of technoid pieces that riff on the kind of swung physics found in Artwork’s seminal ‘Basic G’, or Rian Treanor’s disruptive flux with a singularly tight yet loose motion and infectious joy.
Crucially, the album sees Dillon focus on dub music’s pliable emptiness, rather than the moody dematerialisation of reverb and echo. The substance of her music is rematerialised in supple, concise emotional curves and soberly freed to enact its ideas in balletic plies, rugged parries and sweeping, capoeira-like floor action. Applying deeply canny insight drawn from her years of practice as sound designer, musician and hugely knowledgable/intuitive DJ, ‘Workaround’ can be heard as Dillon’s ingenious solution or key to unlocking to perceptions of stiffness, darkness or grid-locked rigidity in electronic music. And as such it speaks to an ideal of rhythm-based and experimental music ranging from the hypnotic senegalese mbalax of Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force, through SND and, more currently, the hard drum torque of DJ Plead; to adroitly exert the sensation of weightlessness and freedom in the dance and personal headspace.