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Album Review: Bertie Blackman - The Dash

29 October 2014 | 10:56 am | Naaman Zhou

"While the appeal of The Dash is undeniable, it’s also less unique."

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Following Bertie Blackman’s career is like watching a computer program rewrite itself – each new record a distinct permutation forwards, each time getting more and more digitised.

It’s an astounding mission to put out five albums that never plough the same musical furrow, yet here they stand – as distinct as fingers. Number five takes its cues from glam pop and new wave, a heavily-processed collage that’s happier, more kinetic and bustlingly on-point. Minute By Minute bounces with a youthful hustle that conjures the image of 32-year-old Blackman as HAIM’s smoky-voiced older sister. Run For Your Life is drum-poundingly high-vaulted. It seems odd, but it’s the backing tracks on this record that stand out (bubbling, syncopated synth-blinks) rather than the vocals, which, though impressive, too often slip into familiar, uninspiring grooves.

In comparison to 2012’s oddball, idiosyncratic and perfectly stellar Pope Innocent X this is polished, but perhaps excessively so. With this late-stage bloom into internationalised dance-floor fillers, Blackman seems to be going the way of quasi-contemporary Sia. Perhaps then she’s onto something. The Dash is well made, viscerally engineered and potentially a hit in waiting. Maybe we’re just not used to Blackman version five. Maybe her latest pique of reinvention has taken her well ahead of the curve. It’s just that, while the appeal of The Dash is undeniable, it’s also less unique. Knowing Blackman though, it’s not an endpoint to obsess over and dissect; it’s a way-station in a much longer journey.