Released by the innovative Visionquest on 25 June, Dimension D is Dinky’s fifth studio album, but her first venture into singer-songwriter territory. She sings and plays several different instruments on this atmospheric, melodic album, co-produced and mixed by her husband, Matthew Styles. Three years of polishing and refining went into the final product, and it shows – it’s an ethereal, other-worldly blend of elegant tunes, snappy beats and dramatic novels compressed into just a few minutes per track. Over the catchy tunes floats that lovely voice, at times sweet and lyrical, at others menacing and edgy.
Born in Santiago, Chile, Alejandra del Pilar Iglesias Rivera’s name was abbreviated to ‘Dinky’ by her sister. Since the early ’90s she’s been at the forefront of the minimalist techno music DJ scene based in Berlin. That’s what makes this album so adventurous for her.
She studied opera and jazz, trained as a singer and classical guitarist/pianist, but favours an extraordinary Moog guitar on most tracks here, which gives the songs a twangy sound redolent of the sea, big surf, nature and sunshine. Chris Izaak seems to be an influence here; she says she’d been listening a lot to the Cocteau Twins, too – but the album is sui generis and highly original.
There’s darkness in some songs, too. ‘Falling Angel’ was, she says, inspired by a saintly person who had a secret, evil past; for the video she filmed her sister who sits blinking enigmatically in a Berlin cemetery, apparently enamoured of a tree. ‘Feel free to survive’, she urges in the chorus.
Many of the lyrics were improvised over the melodies, layered in with that inspirational guitar. ‘Measures’ has pensive, trippy elements textured with live drums, percussive clapping and an organic, bluesy synth sound that’s her trademark across the album. Again, that angelic voice cuts through strange lyrics: ‘I start climbing through the wall’, she sings happily. The title track turns house-y beats into a playful, transgressive anthem.
Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night refers to sweet music with a ‘dying fall’, and that’s what Dinky has perfected here. She favours trochaic metrical patterns, with gerunds prominent: ‘dying’, ‘falling’. The song ‘Witches’ consists of strings of these celestially harmonised rhythms, with their inherent sadness and introspection. In ‘La Noche’ she sings in her native Spanish, where the haunting, gentle words are whispered with fervour and delicate vehemence.
Dylan bemused trad folkies when he plugged in his electric guitar and told his band to play as loud as they could (or words to that effect); when the Beatles went trippy-psychedelic, their teen pop fans didn’t get it. This exciting new direction that Dinky has taken will no doubt puzzle her electro-clubby fanbase (though the minimalist Berlin sound is still there in the mix). But their loss is our gain. Dinky has produced a triumphantly eccentric and diverse set of songs that reward multiple plays. There’s a maturity, range and depth here that suggests she is going to continue to get just better and better.
Update: ‘Blind’ was released as a single on 3 August, with alternative mixes available – it’s a stormer! The video featuring members of her family has some haunting images, like the song.
A slightly shorter version of this review appeared at Blogcritics on 3 July