The past is irretrievable. If I revisit a place that was important to me during my childhood, I do not truly return to it. That place is gone. Instead, I simply occupy the same worldly co-ordinates. Everything else has changed. I’m surrounded by the altered facades of buildings and the enactment of new street rituals, meeting an entirely different set of people as I wander through the streets that suddenly feel less sprawling and enchanted than they used to be.
The musical elements on ΛΗΤΩ – guitars swept up like ash in a breeze, pianos pressing on the edges like a consolatory embrace – seem to dwell in the gaps generated when the shrunken residue of a place in the present is draped feebly over our flourishing, nostalgic recollection of it. These melodies perform a mourning for what is no longer there. They hover over the arid stretch of earth where the playground used to be. They rush into the doorways of the abandoned homes of former neighbours, like a breeze summoned to yearning emptiness. Dalot manages to be imbue these field recordings with the pulsing humidity of contemplation. She also makes these spaces feel somewhat lacking, drained of colour even as they brim with new life.
There is a melancholic distance between me and the spaces I occupy here. In the case of “Athens (Panoramic Steps)”, the emotional sentiment overwhelms corporeal experience for just a moment – the harsh roar of passing traffic retreats behind a pulsing electronic beat and a synthesiser that sweeps the road like a searchlight, probing for an essence that is no longer there, waning as it acknowledges that the energy sought is locked inside memory alone, no longer accessible to the world outside.
Out of the places featured here, London is the most familiar to me. Being only a two-hour coach journey away, I travel there several times a year. I meet friends for coffee, attend shows and exhibitions and hunt out vegan cafes with my wife. The sensation of inhabiting the London soundscape is very vivid within memory, and this piece of music brings it all back. Curiously it’s not the field recording that triggers my own recollections of London, but the way Dalot forces the instruments and sounds to jostle for space. It’s the way the synthesiser clogs up the centre like a black trail of exhaust fumes, forcing the rustle of pedestrian conversations to the edges. It’s the stubborn lack of alignment between the array of sounds that flock into the frame: how the procession of cowbells and shakers (presumably from a passing parade or protest) rattles unkindly across the tape-withered guitar and synthesiser chords. It’s the sudden, jolting dominance of a particular voice as a passing comes into momentary focus – long enough for me to catch certain words, but never long enough for me to make sense of what is being said. Dalot doesn’t conjure London itself, but the feeling of London. The abysmal panic, the claustrophobic glamour, the argumentative tempos. It’s an experience of which I am both fond and afraid.