Across seven beguiling tracks filled with lush instrumentation, enigmatic ideas, and hypnotic reveries, nothing is more powerful than Dominique’s spellbinding voice. Her range is endless. The physicality woven into each breath is a wonder. Ancient energy flows through the opening chants of “Whenever It Is The Same,” Dominique channeling that power into dynamic, cinematic sonic monoliths. From those first wails to the closing gasps and gentle strums of “Fantasy Wading,” The Instruction Manual is pure magic.
“When It Is The Same” covers a wide swathe of the cosmos, each step imbued with an emotional cascade. Guitar chords flow through a river of light with alluring strings laying a floundering platform for Dominique to bellow. Her voice twists into intricate shapes, growing and shrinking without pause, washing the entire song in primeval spirits. Ancestors cry out. The world spins again.
The Instruction Manual runs down a bevy of emotional currents but threads playful moments throughout. Wordless exercises bounce on the warped fairytale bassline and rhythm of “Always I Want!” It’s like being lost in an oddly whimsical funhouse. Dominique repeats variations on the phrase, “Always I want,” changing the order and pulling her voice across octaves like an enchanted marionette.
“If I Ever (Fall Away With You)” sits in a valley where hallucinatory affirmation and capriciousness dance hand-in-hand. Her voice jumps from spoken word to operatic glissandos, uttering phrases like, “If I just buckle down and create a clock. Yes, that will solve all my periodical pauses” and “It’s strange because I found my love within this mechanism.” (not to mention, “Just signing the word ‘time’ on a piece of paper; on a line that I made myself,” which gets me every, err, time). The surrealistic phrasings match the dreamlike nature of the music to build a phantasmagoric universe where Dominique pulls all the strings.
Heady spaces shine on the almost straightforward “Help Me Decide.” Hand drums carom between chord progressions while flute solos effervesce elegantly in the air above it all. Dominique’s vocal delivery is, of course, the star. Turnips and trees star in succession, but there’s nothing that wouldn’t sound magical when she sings it. Every piece of The Instructional Manual is riveting; a beautiful spectacle that commands attention and devotion from the beginning. When she shifts from ethereal to howling out, “Love me forever,” the world trembles. We hold our collective breath. Time ticks forward, pulled by the force of her words. The Instructional Manual is triumphant and easily one of my favorite records of the year.
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