‘Workaround’ is the singular debut album proper by Beatrice Dillon; an eminent rhythm fiend whose productions and DJ sets are prized for her patient, fluid grasp of space, texture and devilish, syncopated UK club styles. It's almost impossible to articulate just how hard we’ve fallen for this one, but trust that for our money it’s the most vital album we’ve heard in recent times, effortlessly playing to both forward/club and pop-styles without ever feeling like it’s trying too hard to do either.
Counting her most finely sculpted work among its 14 tracks, ‘Workaround’ is the definitive yet most open-ended statement of an aesthetic Beatrice has worked toward for the past decade. Entirely running at 150bpm, but rarely repeating any one pattern, the album works in a fractal not fractional style of rhythmelodic suss that acknowledges a world of influence from African, sub-continental and Caribbean musics, as well as contemporary electronics, and how they’ve all feed into the unique prism of UK club music.
Recorded over 2017-2019 at studios in London, Berlin and New York, and featuring a wealth of tactile guest input by everyone from Kuljit Bhamra (tabla) to Pharaoh Sanders Band’s Jonny Lam (pedal steel guitar); Laurel Halo (synth/vocal); Lucy Railton (cello); Batu (percussion); Hemlock’s Untold, Morgan Buckley and Senegalese Griot, Kadialy Kouyaté - Beatrice deftly absorbs their instrumental colours and melody into an interlinked body of work that suggests immersive, nuanced options for dancers, DJs and domestic players.
Also taking core inspiration from literary and non-musical ideas such as James P. Carse’s book ‘Finite and Infinite Games’ and its central tenet that “an infinite game is for the purpose of continuing the play”, along with English painter Bridget Riley’s essays on grids, colour, and light perception, plus margaret Glyn’s 1907 text on ‘The Rhythmic Conception of Music’, the album operates within a finely crafted, self-sufficient system that favours functionality over anything “esoteric” or mystic.
Of course with such a wide ranging set of influences it requires a steady hand and mind to tesselate the myriad angles of her influences without making a mess of it, and Beatrice’s soberly controlled approach and fixed, minimalist, temporal framework sets the ground for a completely revelatory, crisp, syncretic consolidation of instrumental and synthetic vibes that will speak to the broadest dancefloor church and future-proof the album for a long time to come.
Viewed from any angle, Workaround is tight and brimming with vitality. Using dub’s mutability, but leaving aside its dread aspect, it yields a supple yet solid, elegantly rugged club choreography that dances between Bhamra’s floral tabla rolls to lissom sort of synth-pop with Laurel Halo, and best of all, a killer run of fizzing steppers that somehow wrap up the physics of Artwork’s ‘Basic G’ with the disruptive flux of Rian Treanor, matching the in-the-pocket funk of Ricky Villalobos and Mark Fell’s ‘Multistability’ ideas, while nodding to the swingeing syncopation of Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force and the deeply gratifying percussive anticipation of Photek or DJ Plead. For our money, a masterpiece - no less.