If the central idea behind The Dream is to reflect the bizarre, the shifting tone, setting and content of the most fevered of actual dreams, then it succeeds.
Last time we heard from Adam Raisbeck (aka Sense) it was on the archive-mining compilation album Selected Moments Volume 1, a gorgeous collection of tracks that spanned two distinct generations of IDM and electronic music as well as a recent extended player of articulated electronics for Detroit Underground. Recognizably Raisbeck, SMV1 was full of Neo Ouija era clicks, cuts and his poignant, emotional melodic flourishes. A second volume has yet to materialize, but in the meantime Raisbeck returns to the Psychonavigation label and delivers The Dream, an atypical album awash with murky ambient tones in a Kettel-style Volleyed Iron shift in direction. And sadly, it doesn’t quite work.
I’m all for artists stepping out of their comfort zone by branching out in unusual directions and trying something new, but while The Dream seems to kick off with the clear mission to deliver a more brooding, dark ambient experience, Raisbeck seems unable to fully embrace the style, all too frequently getting thrown back into his ruminative, and ultimately prettier sound.
There is still enjoyment to be had, nevertheless. “Denizen” is a strong opener, its cavernous, echoing subterranean thrum augmented by an unnatural, edge-of-hearing electrical drone/tone elicits alien imagery of some vast, phosphorescent underground lair, which slowly swims out of focus, diminishing in intensity until it disappears in a foggy, fading conclusion. But then The Dream stalls abruptly thanks to the aimless oddity “K4rNuance,” its queasy and unsettling, pitch-shifting crystalline keys like Leyland Kirby on a night out with a hammered Secede who’s accidentally wiped all his samples and ambient field recordings, leaving the track sounding half-finished.
“The Dream” itself is better, mixing above and below water palettes with abandon. Earth-shaking, muffled and muted bass booms and an underwater, melodic bubbling bass-loop are pitted against crashing waves, prismatic sea spray in a chill wind and old-school, soprano µ-Ziq tones that out another free-form melody. The brightly colored filaments of the properly gorgeous “Floatingtimepoints” filter through the speakers like sun-shafts, but are so reminiscent of and tap so heavily into Secede’s sound on Byebyegridlocktraffic and Tryshasla it’s almost scandalous. One keeps expecting to hear the trademark Back To The Future samples peeking through.
“31mus” hits like a bolt out of the blue as a vaunted, eastern chant drifts through vast echoing chambers of reverb with synth zithers rising and falling. It’s actually an extremely effective and borderline disturbing piece, but again feels oddly jarring and another true anachronism on the album. Artists like Vatican Shadow tap into this with far greater depth and aplomb. Sadly, the rest of the material is rather aimless, meandering filler on what is already quite a tightly edited album. Even the chilly washes and frosty drones of the closing “Waking Transition” fail to make much impact as they are released in a sort of mechanical drawl. In fact there is one more track on The Dream, (the compact disc release, at any rate), but you have to sit or skip through an utterly pointless eleven(!?) minutes of silence before reaching hidden track “Wwonder.”
If the central idea behind The Dream is to reflect the bizarre, the shifting tone, setting and content of the most fevered of actual dreams, then it succeeds. Whether this works as a listening experience is another matter. There’s some undeniably nice stuff on The Dream but the inconsistent tone makes it a frustrating and awkward listen, at times sounding more like a compilation than a dedicated album, a strange phenomenon given how cohesive his previous compilation album felt.
The Dream is available on Psychonavigation.