Experimental noise duo Dialogue were one of 2016’s most pleasant surprises. Even though their debut release, abstractions, was a reinterpretation of an earlier recording creating by one of the group’s members — namely, Alexa Lima’s 2015 self-titled EP — the record still laid the groundwork for what to expect from the pair: meditative drones, abrasive beats, psychedelic aural manipulations, and a liberal use of samples and field recordings. It was deeply exploratory music that remained tethered to Lima’s more formal constructs, resulting in a first effort that was gripping and venturesome.
For those of us who follow the work of Lima and her partner Keith William (WAKE), it comes as no surprise that the duo’s new LP, Isolated in Time, finds them probing the mercurial, unpredictable waters of live improvisation. Recorded on the evening of October 19, 2016, the record is a staggering hour and forty minutes of cinematic sound deconstruction that fluctuates wildly between severe minimalism; jagged, scraping industrial noise; and the occasional emergence of something pseudo-melodic. Broken into just two tracks, simply labeled “Side A” and “Side B”, it’s a massive amount of music to absorb in one sitting — I’ve listened to it twice through and I’m just starting to skim the surface — and the myriad turns each composition takes can make for a exhausting exercise in endurance. But that’s part of the point. By crafting their record in such an extemporaneous manner, Dialogue ensures that Isolated in Time will be a singular experience, one that, much like their live performances, can never be replicated.
“We basically wanted to capture a moment in time,” William explains. “We wanted to translate our live performances, which are always improvisations, to the record… Nothing was written in advance. We utilized our record collection, synths, various drum machines and samplers, and piano.”
To anyone who feels hesitant about engaging with such a dense and difficult record, my advice is to dive in. Don’t be afraid to jump around, to press forward and move back. This is boundless music unbeholden to traditional structures, so to treat it as something linear and monolithic is doing it and yourself a disservice. So take a deep breath, throw on some headphones, and let your imagination stretch. Isolated in Time will take care of the rest.
As an an added bonus for those of us who enjoy some visual stimulation while we listen, we’ve included a video shot live to Facebook that documents the recording of the LP as it happened. As a companion piece, it’s indispensable, even if only as an impromptu snapshot of Dialogue immersed in the creative act. Check it out below.