Dessa is part of the Minneapolis, Minn. hip-hop collective Doomtree and the septet's beats slosh back and forth like a lit bomb attached to a pendulum. When performing as a solo artist, however, Dessa opts for a simpler aesthetic and peppers her lyrics with live beats of an Oriental folk flavor or abandons any cultural allusions and opts for a cappella delivery.
It's Dessa's delivery of her sorrowful lyrics that separates her from other women in music. It is palpable when a woman is singing about something, not singing through something.
Dessa does little to camouflage the ugly emotions in life. On "Call off Your Ghost" she sings of seeing an old flame at a wedding and being introduced to his new lady, and he to the new man in her life. This linear storytelling is fashioned to Dessa's monotone rumble. Her discomfort with the new situation is dealt with by squashing down painful feelings about to erupt by stoning them with boulders of apathy. "The Lamb" forces Dessa to forgive a past lover, but never forget what breaking discomfort he brought her.
A lot of Dessa's work rings true to the bell toll of Sylvia Plath. There is a gray haze to every lyric, but this depression never comes without hope or the knowledge of past experiences asking for guidance. "Annabelle" searches for an answer for the loss of a friendship.
Dessa is also a published poet with several books to her credit. Some lyrics do read like a journal entry but, beyond her teen angst days, Dessa's music takes a practical approach to pain and, to an extent, getting older and growing old with garnered wisdom.
All photos by Louis Kwok