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Margaret Dygas - Margaret Dygas

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Artist: Margaret Dygas

Album: Margaret Dygas

Label: Perlon

Review date: Aug. 4, 2011

The quality of space in Margaret Dygas’s music is remarkable. Unblemished blue with a clear line of sight to the horizon, it’s something out of the cover of Roxy Music’s Avalon. There is a reassuring suggestion of water and space in the mix compared to some of this year’s banner releases, which have tended to sacrifice headroom for a bigger sense of sound (a la BNJMN’s Plastic World). But Dygas has only recently become a producer. She made her name as a DJ after moving to London in 1999, and her first career as a professional listener imbues the tracks on her latest, self-titled release on Perlon with a sense of restraint and a killer attention to detail.

Like kindred spirit Ricardo Villalobos, Margaret Dygas explores the experimental potential within the trappings of club music in a way that rarely calls attention to itself. Both producers are fascinated by the abstract qualities of music — sound as sound — without abandoning a steady pulse. Bump the volume, get high, or both, and their personalities burst out of the tracks’ ice-cold professionalism. On its face, Margaret Dygas doesn’t stress its formal experiments as overtly as the producer’s full-length debut, How Do You Do?, did last year. Yet chances, and the taking of them, are right there on the surface of this album — Dygas just affords them more of an opportunity to sneak up on you.

“Missing You Less” is exemplary in this regard. It starts off in the familiar, austere minimal-techno mode Perlon’s known for, but Dygas’s additions gradually tip the balance toward her idiosyncratic sense of sound design. Each sound in the mix is subtly distinct, and together they’re a pointillist assembly of twitching hi-hats, cooing synths, and turbid, rolling horns cruising past in mid-tempo waves. Halfway through, sheets of cymbals revolt and take over from the steady pulse for a chaotic moment before a smooth transition brings it back home.

Throughout the album — but especially on tracks like “Soon” and “Pressed for Time” — Dygas rolls out cropped acoustic drum samples over her synthetic frameworks. Sounding jerky at first, these jazzy flourishes patiently weave into low-key patterns until the two sides become indistinguishable. Dygas’s take on house doesn’t exactly jack, but she’s also uninterested in an exclusively home-listening experience: her sampled drum kits ensure Margaret Dygas balances laidback groove and stop-start dynamics successfully enough to keep listeners on their toes.

But what makes Margaret Dygas a unique record is less about the sounds themselves and more about how they’re put to use. It’s easy to miss not only the microscopic sounds that bubble up but also the ways they’re played against one another. Whether you want to cruise on the surface of activate your microscope vision, Margaret Dygas teems with life.

By Brandon Bussolini

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