Heavy on bass and disco-diva pomp, Beth Ditto’s first venture away from modern dance-punk pioneers Gossip should go some way to fortifying her status as an indie star. The messy arrangements and lo-fi production that accentuated Standing in the Way of Control, and to a lesser extent Music for Men, is banished to make way for Simian Mobile Disco’s polished electro, a move which suits Mary Beth Patterson’s soulful vocals. Ditto’s short yet extraordinarily sweet self-titled EP is festooned with enough sonorous grooves and throbbing basslines to fill a full-length album, boasting the Gossip songstress’s most danceable tunes to date.
One could almost predict that this sleek electro-pop sound would be the natural progression for Ditto’s erstwhile outfit as they continue to trim their use of guitars and organic percussion, and there’s been no indication so far that theirs was a broken formula. Moreover, this can’t be a case of Ditto wanting to take center stage: She’s always been Gossip’s main attraction, her voice the subject of the foremost critical acclaim. In teaming up with Simian Mobile Disco, though, it allows her to finally become the sultry disco diva she’s always threatened to be.
The guttural hollers and rock-star ticks are not welcome here, as Ditto embraces a more restrained and tuneful approach to her prose. On “Do You Need Someone” and “Goodnight, Good Morning,” she flaunts a beguiling falsetto, while “I Wrote the Book” sees her narrating a tale of romances gone awry with a composed and confident tone. There’s nothing excessive or overblown to her approach, which works both to broaden her appeal and draw attention to her versatility as a vocalist.
Despite wearing the crown of music’s most feral female talent, Ditto excels with EP because of her straightforward singing. She is near pitch-perfect with every turn, and seems to relish the opportunity to flex her vocal cords in this electronic environment. If this sort of form can be captured with the next Gossip record, or a balance can be struck between the group’s raw energy and Ditto’s newfound sleekness, then we’ll be in for a real treat.