The Dakota Suite – The Hearts of Empty


This is a hell of a record: once you allow its subtleties to creep up on you, you will be addicted, mark my words.


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I’ve never liked jazz or anything that crosses the Rubicon into its territory so to speak. That is until now, though I wouldn’t have the musical authority to know whether The Hearts of Empty is actually a jazz LP. I believe Dakota Suite have, over the years, flirted with jazz; but to me this is minimal music, brilliantly expressed. The band has a terrific ability to concentrate on the essential elements in their compositions and because of this you really get sucked into this record’s vibe.  Once past Easy Steps (which sounds just like its title) the record really blossoms: Cataluna, Underpowered and Namiko employ brushed percussion to great effect, its subtle gradations of tone and texture allow the double bass and piano to concentrate on emphasising the structure. And the title track is a killer cut; a very patient piano coda nags away at forming a melody whilst the percussion glides sensually in the background.

In the second part of the record there’s a shift towards electronica, for want of a better word. The jazz elements remain, but they seem to add flavour, rather than give direction to the music. Legend of the Skies, The Ladder, M-Theory and Eskimo Nebula drag us into a sort of Studio G world with bleary 1970s style atmospherics, with the latter track morphing into some kind of “underwater cabaret” theme. Sorry, it’s the best way I can describe it. Favourite for me has to be The Black Pyramid, which welds a lovely reflective piano melody and slumberous percussion to some sci-fi effects. It is marvellous.


This is a hell of a record: once you allow its subtleties to creep up on you, you will be addicted, mark my words.