Dizzy Take Road Testing into Their Own Hands on 'Separate Places' EP

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jun 10, 2021

2020 was not the trip around the sun Dizzy were hoping to take. The Oshawa indie pop band's sophomore album, The Sun and Her Scorch, hasn't yet had the chance to be road-worn. Ahead of its release last July, the quartet of Katie Munshaw and brothers Charlie, Alex and Mackenzie Spencer had begun a winter U.K. stint supporting Oh Wonder. The pandemic inevitably had other plans.

The Sun and Her Scorch showed a young band that had come into their own and taken control of their sound. Dizzy's 2018 debut, Baby Teeth, was a dark Bildungsroman that revelled in lush electronic flourishes courtesy of producer Damian Taylor (the Killers, Arcade Fire, Temper Trap). The band produced the record themselves this time around, shedding the ambient soundscape for something more organic and authentic to who they'd grown into. Thematically, it reckoned with mortality from a place of greater existential clarity, armed with the survival instinct that knowingly carried them through adolescence.

It's standard to hear an acoustic version or remix of a song from an artist, but this trend has ramped up in musicians' pandemic innovation: Toronto pop artist ELIO recently released a remix album alongside collaborators like Charli XCX and Babygirl; before that, Phoebe Bridgers released an EP with Rob Moose's orchestral re-arrangements of a handful of Punisher tracks. Songs take on many lives, and what's recorded has usually gone through many stages of development. Remodeling and remaking isn't novel — but artists figuring out how to translate songs from off the studio floor to a live performance often helps set continued evolution in motion.

Separate Places is Dizzy's way of breathing new life into some of the songs they've barely had the opportunity to play. The EP features five album cuts — including singles "The Magician," "Sunflower" and "Beatrice" — reimagined with the help of different guests. Said collaborators come from separate places as near as Toronto (Luna Li) and as far as London, U.K. (Flyte). They range in stature from Kevin Garrett, who's previously collaborated with Beyoncé, to relative-unknown Jahnah Camille, a 16-year-old rising singer-songwriter from Alabama. Each brings something from their own stylistic arsenal to assist in recasting Dizzy's sonic vision.

Beneath their gleaming synthpop surfaces, songs like "The Magician" and "Sunflower" evade immediate exposure of their heavy lyrical content. In the former's case, the ache at its core becomes more readily apparent with Luna Li on "The Bird Behind The Drapes." She and Munshaw play call-and-response from different spectral planes over muted piano chords and muffled conversations, culminating in a cinematic crescendo of cascading strings. Meanwhile, Garrett eases the existential dread of "Sunflower" on "Sunflower, Are You There?" with a hand-in-pocket guitar groove and crunchy backbeat.

"10PM" and "Beatrice St. E" are more stripped back versions of original tracks "Ten" and "Beatrice," respectively; the former is now a front-porch acoustic duet with Camille, while on the latter, Overcoats lend their signature ethereal harmonies atop Munshaw's, where the EP draws its title from the solemn refrain, "We head home again to separate places." It's a similar feel on Flyte-featuring "Primrose Hill at Midnight," with Will Taylor's trademark vocal multitracking hauntingly repeating, "Anywhere you go / I'll be there to dote" throughout its final third. The ballad gets some added edge from an insistent pulse of whirring low-end-frequencies and the London trio's sweeping harmonic envelope.

Could Dizzy have expanded their musical palette even further by working with artists with drastically different sounds than theirs? Absolutely. But that doesn't seem to be the intention with Separate Places; it's more of an exercise in imagining growth processes the band might come by naturally. They chose to collaborate with musicians who already shared many of their stylistic values and didn't aim to fit their songs into the molds of disparate genres: they partnered with artists they believed could highlight what they had present — or were at least leaning toward — on The Sun and Her Scorch.

As a result, Separate Places doesn't traverse vastly uncharted musical terrain for Dizzy. However, it shows the band's desire to grow and their intuitive sense of direction. Some of the collaborators on this EP even bring out echoes of Baby Teeth, beckoning back to the band's past lives; and a willingness to embrace the bittersweet sense of cyclicality is a form of branching out in and of itself.
(Royal Mountain Records)

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