Album Review: Dottie’s ‘thief’

Written by Archie Sagers

Dusk falls across the shifting black hills, a neon red glow emanating from the sky above. Gothic hallways line pathways through a frozen wasteland, and a soft sustained voice coated in reverb echoes from every surface. Dottie’s new album, thief, steals a listener’s mind and drops it into a new world where the surroundings are faded away.

thief revels in its murky, muted production. Droning bass accompanies drums that simultaneously crash and whisper. Shimmering guitars populate the dark and neon landscape conjured up by interlocking dreamy harmonies and delays that spread across all available space. Echoing vocals morph into the soundscape; individual words dissolve into a primordial soup. Lyrics are indecipherable, but the vocal timbre and soft cynicism transcend their instrumental counterparts, elevating the tracks and raising them into crushing seas awash with reverb and contemplation. This all-encompassing darkness on thief perhaps comes from a trying past year of chemotherapy. 

The album contains anger and sadness in equal measures, its dense flood of emotion comparable to The Cure’s Pornography. Tracks fit together so seamlessly it’s almost impossible to tell where one begins and where another ends. This atmosphere surrounds the listener on the title track, “thief.” Deep bass and dramatic drones, somewhere between a string quartet and a hornet’s nest, pull the listener into Dottie’s gloomy world. Drums are just barely audible in the swirling mass of sound. The music video contains an equal cacophony of visual information. dottie dances in the center with other recordings layered on top: until the visuals slowly fade into a deep blood red. Tracks like “silent” focus instead on percussive bass stabs, creating an ambient and shifting experience that blends into the surroundings. Warbling guitars and ethereal vocals warp to give the rumbling bass a shimmering icy finish.

The production is strange, characterized by low drones and muffled instruments. Muddy reverberated bass occupies all the tracks, but this unconventional approach allows for additional expression from Dottie. The tracks sound darker as there’s no brightness of high-pitched frequencies. Echoing, reverb-laden sounds make the instruments difficult to distinguish; even the voice splices its way into the arrangement. Drums take a backseat as they aren’t required to provide energy to the tracks, and the sounds softly blend to create one otherworldly shifting timbre. This sonic space is then starkly cut by a sample of a newsreader reporting on a fire in “perfect.”

Sitting between slowcore, shoegaze, and gothic rock, dottie’s album occupies a dark soundscape with hints of Cocteau Twins, Pinkshinyultrablast, and Bowery Electric. A more obvious influence is My Bloody Valentine. We hear Kevin Shields’ glide guitar technique on the reversed reverb in tracks like “drown.” Its four-minute runtime, occupied by repeating harmonic and dreamlike guitar chords, ends with an extended silence that permitted the sounds of a cold Brighton day to fade into my ears before the rhythmic delay of “calathea” slowly emerged. With thief, Dottie has precisely crafted a vivid and overwhelmingly lush soundscape.

Score: 7

Archie Sagers is a musician and photographer living in Brighton (U.K.). He has also run the record label Crafting Room Recordings since 2019.

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