Dalton's new album, Archetypes, will be out later next year. Her new show at Auckland Arts Festival will incorporate storytelling, dance and visual effects to create an immersive experience of the music.
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Those who have seen Wellington musician Estère Dalton perform may be surprised to learn the “powerhouse band” billed to appear on stage with her for Into the Belly of Capricorn will be composed of human beings. It’s a change for Dalton, who during her solo career has mainly been accompanied on stage by some combination of her “machine band”: Lola, a sampler, Korgy, a synthesiser, and Toto, a three-headed drum kit.
But then, a lot of things are different with this show. Known for her “electric blue witch-hop”, Dalton has both been likened to and opened for Erykah Badu. She has a honeyed voice, usually accompanied by heavy basslines and hooks. That soulful energy will still be part of Capricorn, but audiences can also expect to hear a heavy folk influence, in both the lyrics and the musical arrangements of her new songs.
Don’t expect her to turn Simon and Garfunkel, though. “Folk music is deeply rooted in that almost mythological context, and the folk music I’ve been inspired by isn’t necessarily only Western,” Dalton says. “I’ve drawn a lot from myths and ideas of shared human experience and storytelling.”
She has also been influenced by music she’s had on heavy rotation during the show’s creation, including the indie pop artist Feist, Gillian Welch (she likes how Welch tells entire stories from start to finish within a single song), and the Tuareg rock group Tinariwen, who live in the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali.
“I just decided to follow whatever feels right and it can turn out, you know, not how I expected it to but that’s just kind of the way everything I do seems to work. I have an idea and I follow it through, and it’s never quite what I envisioned but it’s exactly what it is.”
One thread in Capricorn explores the shift we all experience as we grow from child to adult, and what we can lose during that metamorphosis, an idea explored in some of the mythologies she’s been reading: “The shift from that innocence or newness and naivety, where we might lose touch with those intrinsic parts of ourselves which were once really clear in childhood — sometimes we need to find our way back to that.”
The show is directed by the award-winning Sara Brodie, with lighting directed by Jo Kilgour and audio-visual by Kaysha Bowler. Dalton will be joined by three other artists: a drummer, another singer, and a bass/synth player. They’ll be performing in the Spiegeltent, and Dalton is ready for the quirky, almost circus-like energy that stage usually produces during the Arts Festival.
Capricorn is a teaser for Dalton’s upcoming album Archetypes, due out this year. “It’s an interesting and exciting thing for me because it’s pretty much the only place people can come and share this new music.” The performance will incorporate storytelling, dance and visual effects to create an immersive experience of the music. Dalton wanted all elements of the work to cohere as a single concept, with the intention of creating a distinct experience. Exactly what that experience is it’s hard to say, she says, because the show hasn’t been “gifted” to an audience yet. But she’s excited to find out.
Estère – Into The Belly of Capricorn is on 19 March 2020, at the Spiegeltent, Aotea Square.