Been there. The artist Dillon, working magic on the studio and stage - but finding her muse in bed and beta waves, half-asleep with no one else around.

Been there. The artist Dillon, working magic on the studio and stage – but finding her muse in bed and beta waves, half-asleep with no one else around.

Electronic music has become associated with over-the-top lyrics, the plastic veneer of party-time superficiality. But in any medium, some people are writing from the heart, and that can obscure a simple reality: writing from your most vulnerable places can be hard.

Whatever your music-making medium of choice, you may resonate with artist Dominique Dillon de Byington – born in Brazil, raised in Germany, now goes by the simpler Dillon. Berlin-based, English-language Electronic Beats has taken their superb video series Slices from a hard-to-locate DVD to the mass audience of YouTube, and shorts like this demonstrate why that’s good news.

Dillon is making heartfelt, poignant songs paired with lucid production, first on “The Silence Kills” and now brings those same sensibilities with still greater depth on her second outing, the album “The Unknown” on BPitch Control (the label helmed by Ellen Allien).

But it’s a struggle, one that’s easy to recognize. On a secluded Winterreise through slightly bleak-and-gray, damp German forests, she reveals how she worked through the potential creative blocks. She stopped writing, for one – sometimes the only cure to a creative block is a retreat. But then she also turned to middle-of-the-night forced writing sessions, visited by the half-awake muse. (There’s, of course, physiological phenomena coming to your aid in that state, as your brainwaves shift to creativity-inducing frequencies in the half-asleep mode of relaxation.)

Less it seems that creativity dooms us all to moody mid-morning insomnia, it’s gratifying to hear Dillon also talk about how nice it is to be with someone onstage, and in production. There, she’s celebrating the singular moment of performance just as the lyrics relish nameless, genderless timelessness.

You can watch other episodes of Slices now on EB.TV @ YouTube, including The Mole on dining and master-producers Jon Hopkins and Moderat meeting up for a superstar chat about production.

Dillon onstage, Berlin. Photo: Andreas Koesler.

Dillon onstage, Berlin. Photo: Andreas Koesler.

It’s worth even reading her lyrics. They have a simple, child-like quality, in cheery, onomatopoeiaic rhymes.. It’s Shel Silverstein meets Emily Dickinson, half-remembered after a dream.

How much of a talent is Dillon? Watch her almost-chilling sense of ease in singing, accompanied by wonderfully-tweaky Moog sounds from co-producer Tamer Fahri Özgönenc, in an extended live documentary for German cultural TV on ZDF. (Dialog is German with German subtitles, but the music is worth a watch even if you don’t speak the language.) (Özgönenc’s unsung – and non-singing – production contributions here I think are equally worth mentioning. The two have an obvious and natural rapport in production and phrase alike.)

And an official video for you, featuring her keyboard chops, in the first official release from the new record. The visuals are simple and perhaps not terribly innovative, but sometimes less is more – and the performance on the track speaks for itself:

And previously, on creativity and vulnerability, our friend Moldover.

  • Henry

    I don’t want to be a naysayer, but young girls who write some sad songs and look into the camera with a constantly miserable face expression are not cool. To me, this sounds like Lykke Li, who does neither convince me with her constant everything-is-so-sad attitude. In German, we have an expression that would go (translated literally): To go to the basement for having a laugh.
    Sure, not everybody is always frolicking happily through the day. But it is indeed allowed to have fun once in a while. Affliction is not a lifestyle. Girls who laugh are cool.

    • Peter Kirn

      You’re entitled to your opinion. I really liked the songs – they were beautifully produced and achingly-well performed.

      So much so, in fact, that they made me smile.

      Yes, we can always use more artists who have a sense of humor, too. We certainly have many male producers in the down-and-depressed category (especially in their promo shots):

      But I also think she, as any of us, is entitled to express whatever feeling she likes. I found the results musically well-crafted and emotionally convincing. Of course, they won’t come across that way to everyone; such is the nature of putting our feelings in our art.

      I likewise welcome contributions in other moods – rage to humor.

    • just passing

      > I don’t want to be a naysayer

      Well, if you want to tell us which bastard keeps chaining you to a desk and forcing your hands to a keyboard, I’m sure something can be done to ensure you no longer have to be.

    • Henry

      Listen, mate, if you haven’t got anything to add to the discussion, why don’t you just stay away from here and stop your lame trolling attempts? At least, I have made a point about a topic related opinion. Thank you.

    • just passing

      Pompous ass.

      I was expecting to be annoyed by Dillon, but I found myself captivated – and empathising with her. So I found your negativity irritating, and the juxtaposition of such a wave of negativity with a call for more cheerfulness somewhat hypocritical. I could have expressed that better, but then I’m generally not good at expressing myself. Comes with autism, I’m afraid (as does having random people accuse me of trolling when I was genuinely expressing a genuine sentiment).

  • ThisIsReallyMyUsername

    “Electronic music has become associated with over-the-top lyrics, the plastic veneer of party-time superficiality.”

    o rly? since when and where?
    sure there has always been some of that in every music style, but in my opinion most of the electronic music is not like that.

    is this really your opinion of electronic music or just a weak introduction to this post?