Dakota Suite have produced many, many albums of exquisite misery over the last fifteen years or so. Indeed Chris Hooson and co are well into double figures. They sometimes go down the classical route, or even jazz, but on their latest, a collaboration with French pianist Quentin Sirjacq, they have produced a more song-based album. Opening track This Is My Way of Saying That I Am Sorry sees the band capture a lazy, summery kind of melancholia but it is the quality of the musicianship that sets this apart. Not a note is wasted as David Buxton gently twangs his guitar while Sirjacq plays perfectly pitched piano. Dronning Maud Land drifts along on a graceful bed of piano and double bass
The instrumental material here is, if anything, the true heart of the album. Flat Seat‘s heady brew of picked guitars and horns evokes the sun-dappled likes of Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter. On the other hand, Committing To Uncertainty dials up the drama with uneasy brass in the vein of Tindersticks, while Ask The Dusk and Nothing Is Gone are deeply pretty pieces on piano and guitar respectively. Some of it doesn’t quite work, they occasionally lapse into sentimentality on vocal tracks In The Stillness of This Night and Be My Love. Horn pieces Nu Dat Deze Dag Voorbij Is and The Tears That Bind Us To This Place dip a toe into the avant-garde with interesting results, but probably the finest moment is the title track, a soaring piano-based instrumental which does a fair job of approximating the sound of blissful sorrow.
All of this would be standard issue quality wallowing but for the variety of instrumentation featured – the band incorporate guitar, piano, drums synths, clarinet, double bass and an assortment of wind instruments. It’s quite possible this is Dakota Suite’s finest album to date, though distance may “merely” render it another fine album to file alongside their others.
1. This Is My Way Of Saying That I Am Sorry
2. Flat Seat
3. In The Stillness Of The Night.
4. Committing To Uncertainty
5. Nu Dat Deze Dag Voorbj Is
6. Dronning Maud Land
7. Ask The Dusk
8. Be My Love
9. Nothing Is Gone
10. The Tears That Bind Us To This Place
11. The World Touches Me Too Hard
12. There Is Calm To Be Done
13. I Miss The Dust