Dakota Suite Dakota SuiteVallisa
Here is a firm defender of the neoclassical version of Dakota Suite , in clear, head-on detriment to his folk side, with vocals, tormented and self-destructive lyrics, and many already-assimilated and highly-recognisable resources appropriate to the genre. At times, one might think that Chris Hooson, the sole leader of this project, is of the same opinion, and that his more orthodox recordings are concessions to his wider, more conventional following, which in a sense allows him to experiment in this other freer, more minority area. In fact, if we look at his career, we can see that he has alternated folk and neoclassical albums in an almost orderly, chronological fashion, but it is also true that his latest steps seem to move in a single direction, of which I, for one, heartily approve.
After “The End Of Trying”, a thoroughly meritorious return dedicated to his true love Johanna, Hooson is back with “Vallisa”, an album recorded live in a little church in Bari, with the accompaniment of David Darling on the cello and piano by Quentin Sirjacq, a last-minute substitute for Sylvain Chauveau, with whom he establishes completely new, highly instructive alliance. For Hooson, this performance constitutes one of his artistic peaks, not only because of the results obtained that night, but for the simple fact of sharing the stage with one of his great idols, David Darling, one of the most renowned, important cello players in the last thirty years, a usual with labels like ECM, always with one foot in new age and the other in chamber ambient, a great source of inspiration for the leader of Dakota Suite.
The three form a small chamber ensemble, without vocal contributions from Hooson, in an instrumental format, in which the repertoire and modus operandi distance themselves in some ways from the most orthodox Dakota Suite, perhaps because here the trio submits itself to the mandate (please excuse the paradox) of a certain notion of improvisation and the total freedom of expression and creativity of live performance. If a melodic compass and a very explicit, palpable sense of emotion, all well thought out and laid out in the studio reigned in his previous neoclassical recordings, whatever the expressive mechanisms used, here, on the contrary, a less accessible research predominates, in which silence and the mastering of tempo take on a special significance and relevance. At times, it reminds one of that devastating solo debut from Mark Hollis, and at other times it makes us think of Arvo Pärt via “Alina”, and we even hear some almost jazz sophistication contributing new currents of sound to the group’s discourse.
Whatever the derivation adopted by the compositions, a selection of songs of “The End of Trying”, “The Way I Am Sick” and the still-unreleased “North Green Down”, an album recorded with Emanuele Errante that was supposed to come out this October as well, and which so far we have no news of, the result is especially optimal, solid and attractive, particularly for those searching for new neoclassical references with which to get through leaden sky Sunday afternoons, solitary trips on the underground, or for night-time urban jogging sessions. It leaves you literally speechless. Especially when the concert goes into the final stretch with “Hands Swollen with Grace”, one of the peak works of the Dakota Suite legacy, and a faithful summary of what it’s music, however tormented, afflicted and deliberately affected it might seem to us, is capable of transmitting when it’s author puts together a few notes on the piano and fills them with soul and a comforting sadness.
Dakota Suite - Hands Swollen With Grace