Steam Donkey is a solo project from Jeremy Cagle that combines electronic elements and organic instrumentation into genre-bending pieces. His recent album Dream In White is a mixed bag of songs that are for the most part instrumental. The songs contain spoken word pieces that sometimes enhance the material and other times fall flat. It is that obvious Cagle is trying to create impactful, thoughtful and even transcendent music. At his best he is able to create music that can be thoughtful and impactful.
The first track “Slow Burn” revolves around repetitive drone metal that wears out its welcome by the two-minute mark. He interjects vocal snippets such as “it’s coming down” and “I’ll suck my plate.” His next song “This Is Normal” is a highlight despite sounding so drastically different than the first song. This track utilizes what sounds like the same synthesized voice from the Macintosh SimpleText application that Radiohead used for Fitter Happier.
In fact the topics on both games are actually quite similar as well. The voice on the song touches on the robotic mundane technology fused society we live in, and the emptiness that can emerge from that. The music itself combines a steady kick and arpeggiated synths and pads. It sounds futuristic and mirrors the theme of the words.
Other songs like “Let Go” aren’t quite as successful. The song has no hooks or engaging instrumental parts. It also clocks in at over seven minutes. As the album progresses there are a couple more decent tracks and others that extremely hard to get through. “Dream in White” and “The Phoenix” are the only other two tracks on the album that got my attention.
The biggest issue with Dream In White is that it doesn’t have much that is aesthetically pleasing to the ears. In an album where you are relying on the music (not the vocals) it needs to be captivating in some sense and that’s not happening here except for a few tracks. Overall, Dream In White has fleeting moments of creativity but the songs feel forgettable as soon as they are over.
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