Is it just me or has there been a resurgence recently in what used to be called â€śelectronicaâ€ť? Admittedly, that has always been too narrow a term to describe Dictaphoneâ€™s music but even though their jazz background is felt throughout, the overall vibe, I would argue, is one of blissfully gentle, densely layered and multi-faceted electronics. All of Dictaphoneâ€™s earlier releases â€“ two albums and an ep â€“ came out on City Centre Offices, and â€śPoems From A Rooftopâ€ť is triggering nostalgia for a time when Iâ€™m Not A Gun, The Gentleman Losers and, elsewhere, The Matinee Orchestra brought together experiment and melody, analogue instruments and electronic manipulation.
All of which is present on â€śPoems From A Rooftopâ€ť, but Oliver Doerell, Roger DĂ¶ring and new member Alexander Stolze prove that theyâ€™re some of the best around. Case in point (just one out of many): the interaction of sax and glockenspiel in â€śMaelbeekâ€ť. Call this â€śjazz-relatedâ€ť if you must (as some shops do) but to my ears â€śjazzâ€ť is only where this album starts. A track like â€śA bout de souffleâ€ť starts of with radio static, a melodic sample, DĂ¶ring’s saxophone (thereâ€™s the jazz) followed by brief passages of rhythmic clicks and cuts, Raster Noton style. These prevail, supplanted by a haunting melody on acoustic guitar. After a few seconds, more trumpet, more blue note. Another few seconds and all is drowned momentarily by a collage of field recordings. Running footsteps, panting noises, a violin crescendo towards an abrupt end after not even three and a half minutes. And thereâ€™s much more where this has come from: â€śPoems From A Rooftopâ€ť is an album that celebrates freedom by giving it shape.