Dorothy Bird’s new album Belonging is grown up music from an artist who has one of the finest voices you will hear. It has depth and complexity, and from the opening instrumental ‘Galaxy’ to the atmospheric closing track ‘Change’, you’ll find yourself being drawn into a world that is both intoxicating and all consuming. She is an artist for whom the word ‘belonging’ has great resonance given that she splits her time between Berlin and Liverpool, works in both music and theatre, and sings in a number of different musical projects. All of which involves constant travel and switching between languages and artistic disciplines. She says:
“(Belonging) is very personal but contains themes that everyone will recognise: uprooting, longing for arrival, familial warmth and letting go. It’s about constant change, liberation, reorientation, and the desire to accept all feelings in their richness. One can feel heavy and light at the same time, these feelings cannot exist without each other…”
There is a delicate balance that’s maintained between the instruments. The placement of piano, synthesisers, guitar, drums and some lush string arrangements (provided by Amy Chalmers) are elements combined in a crucible to produce gold. There are so many wonderful touches throughout the album such as the swell of strings on the title track, the crunchy drums and otherworldly synth and guitar on ‘Silent Warrior’, and the treated sounds that envelop songs like ‘My Heart’. It’s all beautifully crafted and allows Dorothy Bird’s exceptional voice to shine out.
I have seen first-hand how seriously Dorothy takes her vocal performances*, and although she sings as naturally as most of us breathe, she still puts an incredible amount of thought and effort into delivering a performance that’s perfect for each song. Syllables and consonants are all given equal respect and, if you listen with headphones on, you will get the delicate nuance of a ‘t’ or ‘s’ landing at the end of a line. I suspect that even her breathing is in tune. Her control is exceptional, and her voice can hover like mist over the piano (‘Ghosts’), match the tonal quality of Natasha Jaffe’s cello playing (‘Kaleidoscope’), or provide exhilarating occasions when she applies power and soars effortlessly above everything (‘Forgot’). These are the moments that give you what the Germans call gänsehaut.
Dorothy Bird sits in the middle of a Venn Diagram with the more reflective work of artists Kate Bush, Goldfrapp, Massive Attack and Björk; not just as a singer but as an artist who understand the power of mixing the electronic with the organic. Belonging is uplifting and haunting and will resonate with you long after the final track has finished.
The album is now available digitally on streaming platforms having been previously only available on vinyl. It’s co-produced with Jon Lawton from Crosstown Studios in Liverpool who also lends his empathic skills as a guitarist, bass player, programmer and percussionist to the project.
Review by Paul F Cook
*To be transparent, I play in a band with Dorothy but long before that I was a fan having seen her sing with Operation Lightfoot at a show in London in 2018. I remember thinking at the time how amazing it would be to work with a singer of her rare ability, never thinking for a moment it would happen. But thanks to the digital age a project with a mutual friend enabled to us work together. However, first and foremost I am a fan of her incredible voice and wanted to share this album (which I played no part in) with the Joyzine audience.