DREAMING IN REVERSE // #005
"Ornamental" by Dakota Suite (1999 // Glitterhouse Records)
I first heard Dakota Suite’s “Ornamental” in the summer of 1999. I had found myself working at a video store, one town over from where I had grown up. This put me in contact with a whole ocean of similarly aged teenagers, that up until then I had never met. One of those people was a girl who reminded me of Winona Ryder and was just nice enough to me to make me run home and immediately start putting together mixtapes that I would later try to casually work into conversations until I was comfortable enough to ask her out without immediately turning into a pile of sweat, nerves, and useless film knowledge. Amazingly, we actually hit it off immediately and we were soon grabbing dinner and hitting movies regularly, and all things seemed to smooth out. In fact, it was her that first gifted me a mixtape. Analog, no less. This scared me. I was the one who gave these things away. I never received one from someone that had my interests. Naturally, disaster struck later that evening when I misplaced the tape after only listening to it’s contents once. When she asked me about it later, she zeroed in on one song, “Ornamental” by Dakota Suite. I had heard it - for sure - but i couldn’t remember it to save my life, so i bluffed and told her that it was amazing and lavished some bland descriptors upon it, so that it seemed like I knew what I was talking about, but I had no clue. Some time passed and summer was ending, and oddly, despite all of the time together, we hadn’t connected physically, which i tried to chalk up to nerves and or anything but the truth. The truth was that she had a boyfriend and didn’t know how to break it to me. He was older and in a band and wore glasses and tight jeans, so it made perfect sense when he showed up one night and introduced himself. He was cooler than me. He was like Ethan Hawke in Reality Bites and I was fucking Duckie, from Pretty in Pink.
I was devastated. Summer was winding down and everyone was going back to college or just leaving town. She quit work as she was leaving town soon, and I took moping to new heights, previously unseen. Being a dramatic teenager, I decided I needed to clear my head so I drove to California on a whim. Along the way, I discovered her mixtape beneath a seat that had also eaten several bottles in recent hours.
Somewhere in the middle of Nebraska, under a giant blanket of stars, I slid the tape into the deck and the first song that played was a hauntingly fragile bit of lo-fi chamber pop that was unlike anything that I’d heard recently. I checked the tracklist and sure enough, it was the Dakota Suite track that she’d asked me about. The pain of the situation was absolved through a dozen listens of “Ornamental”. The subtle, jazz-indebted percussion and the whispered vocals and crisp, somber guitars and that goddamned melancholic trumpet - it was everything that I needed to stop feeling like an asshole. I mean, surely, i was still an asshole, but I no longer felt like everything was a total bust. I had came away from the situation with a mixtape. One that contained one of the prettiest, saddest songs that I’d ever heard.
Over the years, I’ve used that track on a dozen or so mixes for other people. It took me ordering an imported copy from Germany, just so that I could retire the analog tape before it wore through from repeated listens. I got over the heartbreak with the help of a heartbreaking song. It was one of those songs that found me at the perfect time, and in turn, has stayed with me ever since. I got over the girl, but i have never gotten over my love for “Ornamental”. It’s a quiet masterpiece and it’s worth looking back on, because there is still a lack of artists that sound anything like Dakota Suite. Lucky for me, I don’t have to go looking for comparable sounds, it’s a one of a kind and i never get tired of it. I hope that someone finds it here and it hits the mark the way it did for me.
LISTEN to “ORNAMENTAL” by DAKOTA SUITE: Soundcloud