"There goes my mind / in and out of dreams like the tides / searching up and down the sides of the coastline" croons Luke Wilson on Dreams' opener "Drowsiness." He has a startling voice, somewhere between resignation and tranquil fear. I'm on board with it, but I'm also curious to see if he can sustain the mood he establishes on this narrative album about a man and a dream-eating beast. Guitar strings cascade down the track and Wilson's singing becomes noticeably stronger until he drops everything at the end, "in the deep," and the song ends with about as impersonal a strum as one can manage.
Dreams is 14 tracks long, interspersed by smaller sound collages called "N Cycles" (structurally this is similar to artists such as Catherine Ribeiro and Mark Fry, who also broke up their albums with soft noise). The N Cycles are curious interruptions that have the probably intended effect of accentuating the true tracks, and certainly they add to the overall narrative; to seduce the dreamer the beast manifests itself as a woman. After the second track, “N Cycles 1,” we hear "Chasing a Ghost" which uses a soft guitar melody with a simple bass line to bolster the boy-girl duet: "She lives in my mind / she lives in my heart (Wilson) / Reality will tear us apart (Amélie Duval, or Rosie Moore, he had them labeled as Woman and Seductress respectively)."
Wilson says he deliberately changed up the musical stylings to denote when the man is awake (acoustic guitar and vocals) and asleep (electric guitar, drums and synthesizers), which justifies the existence of the Cycles. Sleep hardly brings peace, though; "The Beast" rackets it up with bizarre math rock set-ups and a surprisingly devilish delivery from Wilson himself. I mean you can tell it's the same person but now he positively growls As well, "The Boat" alternates between soft acoustic-led bridges and drum-focused rock music. At times it seems Wilson is more focused on the novelty of his intriguing experiment; it does seem like he pays more attention to the dream state songs and you can hear the effusiveness in their execution. As such, the waking tracks, especially the closer "The Hourglass," which should have been the strongest track on the album, feel comparably weaker.
Dreams is highly imaginative and intriguing to listen to, especially when you know the context of the album. Wilson's versatility, though, is what makes it worth checking out. He excels in polarities, and none of the tracks suffer due to tension: acoustic versus electric, composition versus improvisation, male versus female. The songs don't always hit as hard as I think Wilson would've liked it, but this is still heads and shoulders, both in effort and product, over what most musical acts can do with multiple people.
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