Dinky, Dimension D – review

Album cover, 'Dimension D' (from Blogcritics)

Album cover, ‘Dimension D’ (from Blogcritics)

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.

Blind - the single

Blind – the single: picture from liaoliao website

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


Acoustic Endeavors play bluegrass at Fincastle Winery & their album ‘On a Farm’

A slightly different version of this piece was published by Blogcritics on Mon. Jul. 8, 2013

My wife, G, and two friends called R were on a road trip from New York city to Miami Beach; en route we stayed at the charming Fincastle Winery b&b just outside Roanoke VA.

Fincastle W houseThe winery house where we stayed

The Fincastle Winery logo from their website

The Fincastle Winery logo from their website

Playing in the natural amphitheatre of the field below the parcels of chardonnay vines was the local bluegrass band Acoustic Endeavors.

ac endv band pic 2

Much of their set consisted of a selection from  their album On a Farm, which has 14 self-penned songs and two instrumentals (by Warren Amberson, guitars, mandolin, bass and lead vocals, and Kelly Green, guitar, vocals).  Their gig kicked off with the wistful but catchy “Hills of Home” (‘I’ve been living on the other side of happiness for way too long’ Warren sings, ‘right where Virginia kisses Tennessee’).  It’s a heartfelt song about the trials of being in a band, always on the road and far from home and loved ones. The long, looping lines blend perfectly with the solo instrumentals and vocal harmonies.

The haunting “Tennessee Iris” reworks similar sentiments to those in Wordsworth’s Lucy poems: a boy grows up in the hills of Roan County, ‘young and carefree’, falls for Iris, whose beauty is the same as the flower’s; she returns his love, but when he’s made his fortune and searches for her he’s told ‘In the cold winter winds she had died’.

There’s a lot of death in these songs, as well as heartache, betrayal and desertion by lovers, which kind of goes with this country genre –“‘I Could Leave Here”, “Never Go Through This Again” and [you hurt me for the]”Last Time Today” are sung by Kelly and tell of feckless, heartless men and their inconstancy and infidelities.  But the bruised, resilient hearts of the women portrayed in the songs will surely mend and lessons will be learned.

Virginian women can be cruel, too: a farmer’s cheatin’ wife has left him to “Hoe This Row Alone,” caring for the children without her, nursing his broken heart.  But love isn’t always doomed. “To You I Wed” shows that married life can be harmonious and fulfilling. Men and women can face the ‘trials of life’ strengthened by love, ‘faithful and true’.  It’s a song of optimism, sung with spirit-lifting honesty, just about avoiding mawkishness.

Not on the CD was a jaunty, witty song about Virginia’s emblematic corn snake; as Kelly cheerfully pointed out when she announced they were going to play it, nobody dies in this song, and even the corn snake is alive at the end!

But ultimately it’s not really the lyrics that make this band and their album so endearing. The mix of sorrow and pain with occasional happiness and faith is conventional country music fare. It’s the musicianship and joy with which they play and sing, with banjo, guitars, bass and mandolin in their live set and an extra fiddle in the mix on the CD.

During the interval they came and visited with us (Southern idioms are catching) as we drank the excellent Fincastle chardonnay.

Fincastle W wines

The band were delighted to hear we were all the way from England and asked if we had any requests; we were equally delighted when they announced our presence and went on to play for us  the only covers they sang all night.  They rocked through Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and “Senor” (can’t make a Spanish tilde on this laptop I’m using while in the US).  This made us feel, as they say in those parts, ‘right welcome’.

Acoustic Endeavors CD On a Farm from Common Folk Productions 2005.

On a Farm CD cover

On a Farm CD cover