Album Review: Dessa ‘A Badly Broken Code’

A Badly Broken Code
Doomtree Records

Dessa, born Margret Wander, transcends the narrow-minded labels created by music execs who want to understand everything they try to sell. In another place and time Dessa might have had trouble getting her music out to a wide audience because so much was controlled by so few. These days, with all of the technology available an artist can take complete control of their music and not have to answer to anyone but their audience.

This is the perfect time for the Minneapolis, Minnesota based artist to have released A Badly Broken Code, which veers seamlessly between spoken word confessionals and vintage ennui. When Dessa speaks, as she does on the record’s opening cut “Children’s Work,” her voice commands attention by virtue of urgency and honesty. When Dessa sings there is a frailty that she balances with flashes raw power. Dessa’s vocal acrobatics though, never sound forced or manipulated and her harmonies soar.

Returning to the idea of labeling, Dessa has been most often referred to as a “hip hop artist.” Now the term “hip hop artist” has evolved over the years to mean more than it did ten years ago. The issue with this label where Dessa is concerned is that she brings so much more to the music than what we come to expect in this era from a “hip hop artist.”

On Dessa’s sophomore release, we uncover layers of intricate instrumentation that co-exist with solid unflinching beats. This unique juxtaposition of sound is evident throughout A Badly Broken Code from the first track to the last. It is important to note that there not a bad song on this disc. “Dixon’s Girl” was my introduction to Dessa and had me excited to hear the woman blend the vintage torchy music accompanied by vocal gymnastics. I had no idea what I was in for: brilliant story-telling that is revelatory and deep, but universal in theme.

Unlike many artists who use their music to expunge their history (and the negative forces at work), Dessa explores her past while learning and living to sing another day. A Badly Broken Code is smart, relevant, and poised to launch this multi-talented star into the next echelon of the musical stratosphere. A Badly Broken Code is a must for people who crave smart timeless music that makes you move and think at the same time.

Stand out tracks: “Dixon’s Girl,” “Seamstress,” and “Matches To Paper Dolls”

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