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One From the Heart

Scottish trio Dove adds sincere lyrics, organic edges to its house-born dance music. 'There's so much music out today that is just about nothing,' says lead singer Dot Allison

By ERNEST HARDY, Ernest Hardy is a free-lance writer based in Los Angeles.

"We've taken our hearts and wrung this music out of it." Dot Allison, the 24-year-old lead singer and co-lyricist of the promising new Scottish dance music trio One Dove, chuckles slightly at her melodramatic description of the group's music. But only slightly. She's a woman who believes music should be personal and revealing--not exactly qualities often associated with hit dance music.
"Our music's sincere in the same way good country & western is sincere a classically trained pianist. I think what separates our music from the typical dance album is that it's really heartfelt. There's so much music out today that is just about nothing."
Speaking from her mother's home in Glasgow, the city where the group was formed in underground dance clubs in 1991 and continues to live, Allison is an articulate woman who shows little of the coyness of so many young British pop musicians of recent years.
Outlining the group's artistic goals and ambitions, she displays the candor and wit that make One Dove's debut album, "Morning Dove White" such an inspired step in the evolution of dance music. (The album, on London Records, was named after the tribe of Elvis Presley's Native American great-great-grandmother.)
While One Dove's roots lie in the dance clubs that spawned the group, it also embraces influences that range from Brian Wilson, '60s girl groups and Bobbie Gentry to Marc Bolan, Iggy Pop and reggae legend King Tubby.
One Dove -- which also includes guitarist Jim McKinven and keyboardist-programmer Ian Carmichael--effortlessly merges disparate musical elements. That has led to the group's initial stateside success coming in rather unexpected places.
"It received a lot of requests when we first put it on" says Darcy Sanders, music director at L.A.'s leading alternative rock station, KROQ-FM. "It's something that sounded really different. We're all waiting to see what the next trend is in the whole ambient-dance genre, what is going to be the dance equivalent or counterpart to Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and it seems like they may be it."
Says Neil Harris, director of A&R for London Records in New York "Reaction to this record has been surprisingly positive. We expected the first single, 'White Love,' to simply be a setup, to just introduce the band on their own terms. We wanted to let them establish themselves on their merit as a real band. We also wanted to avoid hyping them too much as the next big thing from the U.K., which only asks for a backlash, so we were going for a more low-key push. We've been a little surprised at how quickly and positively reaction has built."
If others seem surprised at there being an audience for rule-breaking, ambitious dance rock, the members of One Dove predict bigger shocks are in store.
"What excites us right now", Allison says, "is that there's a bit of a revolution going on. We're at the end of an era. I think the charts in U.K. are really congested with bland, formulaic pop songs that are only there because radio programmers won't allow anything else to filter through. But people are starting to get really bored with it, and the record companies are starting to come 'round to the realization that there is a market for something different."
One Dove's flight began in the late '80s, when house music--the bass-heavy, groove-driven music epitomized by later mainstream hits such as Madonna's "Vogue"--was the dominant sound in Britain. In those days, the three members were in separate groups, but all identified with the underground dance-club scene in Scotland, which embraced the do-it-yourself punk ethic. Bands recorded limited-edition pressings of records that were mainly passed around to other bands just to see who was currently up to what.
The old "art for art's sake" adage was embraced, and it was just as well. The major labels weren't sure of what was happening and showed little interest in what was going on within the club scene. After all three passed through various bands (McKinven was also a member of the early-'80s band Altered Images), they formed One Dove, where they felt a chemistry at work.
In 1991, they recorded a demo tape that contained a rough version of the lush "Fallen", a song that also appears on the debut album. The group managed to get it into the hands of acclaimed British producer Andy Weatherall, who signed One Dove to his own independent label, Boy's Own. The group's tape became one of the hottest on the club circuit, receiving a barrage of press coverage before there was even an official record release. Working with Weatherall, the trio, which insists that the album is not that far removed from the tape it initially presented to the producer, put the finishing touches on what would become "Morning Dove White."
Collectively, the group has stitched together an aural quilt unlike anything else that has come out of the dance arena. Where dance music since the glory days of disco has had a sense of drama and theatricality, One Dove makes music that is cinematic. Its trance-inducing atmospherics and literate lyrics blend into a whole that is also very visual--a subtle, skillful play with darkness and light. With a base of thick bass lines influenced by the Jamaican dub style and occasional blistering guitar, the threesome combines Allison's shimmering, clear vocals (often distorted or used to breathy effect), a pop master's sense of melody and penetrating lyrics that explore the rockier side of relationships.
One Dove's scope extends from the lilting, echo-driven, Phil Spector-goes-reggae groove of "Breakdown", which will be the next single from the album, to the spare, beautiful "There Goes the Cure."
"Jim brings a more somber side to us", Allison says of the guitarist. "He is a big Marc Bolan fan and a big fan of Brian Wilson, but he's more interested in the darker side of the Beach Boys--the kind of music where when you scratch the surface, you find it's not quite what it seems. I don't write nice, girly kinds of lyrics or anything, but what I write might be more sensual or more feminine sounding, so we set each other off as a contrast to begin with. And Ian's sound is quite his own. He's very interested in very ethereal sounds. He sometimes writes lyrics that are more feminine than mine are."

Having already toured the United Kingdom to warm reviews, One Dove, which has been augmented by a lead guitarist and a drummer from a Glasgow jazz-funk band, is preparing to tour the United States. The band will be at the Whisky on Feb. 23, where it will be joined by deejay Scott Hardkiss, who will try to lift the event beyond the typical rock show.
"We're bringing in the deejay", says London Records' Harris, "because it really is all about joining the two cultures, rock and dance. That's one of their goals on this tour."
Allison stresses, though, that although there will be a deejay, there won't be any of the glitz normally associated with tours by dance-oriented artists.
"We try to avoid doing what so many dance acts do, which is to try to use that (glittery aspect) to mask a certain hollowness. People try to enhance the superficial aspects of their act, and that's why they get so theatrical or what have you. There's got to be a bit more work, a bit more sincerity in there. There has to be a more organic feel if you're going to be taken seriously as an artist. (Those acts) have to comply with the competition, which will be artists who are not trying to sell their fans short. Our show is really quite organic. What you see is what you get. There's nothing else, really."
When asked if she feels any added pressure, being not only a musician and singer but the visual and emotional focus of the band, Allison starts off in one direction, then swings unexpectedly to deliver a punch--much like the music of One Dove.
"I don't mind that there is a huge amount of pressure on me in the live situation", she says, "because that's my job. That's what I've undertaken. It's up to me to communicate with the audience, and hopefully I can do that. The downside, though, is that people think you're just a puppet, and that really annoys me. Because I'm just as much a songwriter and equal musician as anyone else in the band. But because of my position, and because of my blond hair, there are so many people, especially here in the U.K., who jump to the conclusion that I'm just another Wendy James (the sexpot lead singer of the defunct band Transvision Vamp) and there's nothing but hot air underneath the blond hair."
What type of audiences does Allison think One Dove will attract in the United States--where, unlike England, the dance and rock worlds seem mutually exclusive?
She's hoping the group's cleansing and emotional music brings together fans from both areas.
"We never want to lose sight of the fact that our audience is not only every shade of sexuality or what have you, but every shade of musical taste or sensibility", she says. "We want to break through all the barriers."

HARDY, ERNEST, One From the Heart; Scottish trio One Dove adds sincere lyrics, organic edges to its house-born dance music.

Originally appeared in The Los Angelos Times, February 6, 1994; pp 57 . Copyright Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles TimesAll Rights Reserved.

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