There’s a tantalising moment of silence after you press play on Dictator’s new track, Mirror Mirror – a heart-stopping moment which allows you to wonder what’s coming next. The beauty of this band is that, although you can be sure what you hear from them will be good, you cannot quite be sure where you’ll be taken, or how.
With Dictator, there’s also a definite feel – an immersive atmosphere – to their music. That was perhaps most obvious in the swirling, mesmeric Moonlight. In this latest release, the band retain that signature sound while going somewhere slightly different to the unforgettable open heart surgery that was Hide and Seek.
Mirror Mirror – released only today – has a very subtle start as the beats come flanging in followed by the first of the gently-delivered vocals. By the time the pleasingly funky bass-line begins, you’re absolutely reeled in and onboard with the premise of the song – what the band calls ‘a statement aimed at the stranglehold social media holds over today’s generation, and how everything is not always as portrayed.’ It’s about social media with all its failings and unrealistic expectations (perhaps humanity’s peak of seeing ‘through a glass darkly’), but done in the classic Dictator manner: slightly tongue in cheek, but very genuine.
Enough of the analysis: back to those beats. It’s hard to describe them as anything but delicious. Firm and following an almost hip hop pattern, they push this song along, helping it stay upbeat and appealing, irresistibly carrying you and putting a smile on your face, while not betraying the earnestness of the message. About a minute in, those beats are suddenly cranked up, becoming slightly overblown but in an characteristically well-judged way.
Judgement is something Dictator demonstrate so expertly in Mirror Mirror. They show it through the music of course: knowing just when the song should wax and wane; just when to add in a further layer of production, and when not to; just when to dial back, and when to let go. But there’s also great judgement in how they present their subject matter, which has ranged from romance, through loss and betrayal, to society’s ills (via a football anthem).
What gets me dancing around my kitchen like a madman every time I play Mirror Mirror is the disco-tinged electric guitar which comes in for the last minute of the song, after a slight false finish. It’s a brilliant touch, adding an element of bounce but in a sophisticated way.
With this one, Dictator have added another very strong element to their arsenal of music (are we heading for an album soon, perhaps…?) If you haven’t heard this yet, I think you’ll love it. It’s masterful.
Words by PHIL TAYLOR.
This review has also published on Music heard, and observed