Published on 7th August 2020
The Utopia Strong – Dreamsweeper
Sometimes, don’t you want to just buy stuff? When I saw this was out, I bought it without bothering to check anything, I thought it was a safe bet. I was expecting a studio album but was not in the least bit disappointed to find that Dreamsweeper was recorded live on 5th September 2019, at a gig in Oslo (not that Oslo, one in Hackney). In fact, fellow Progressive Aspectoranter, Roger Trenwith, our friend Spike and I had the absolute pleasure of seeing these three perform at this very gig, and it was utterly splendid!
During the gig, I stood there, eyes closed, just a couple of meters away from a very nervous Steve Davis, who wrongly considers himself to not be a musician. The fact that Dreamsweeper is clearly musical, as you will tell as you listen to the album, is testament to the fact that he clearly is. Kavus Torabi and Michael J. York are, of course, unequivocally musicians.
Numbers isn’t a strong point for me, but it seems that Dreamsweeper Part 1 and Dreamsweeper Part 2 just about add up to Dreamsweeper (Full Version). There is circumstantial mathematical evidence that they may also be side 1 and side 2 of the vinyl – that, and it sounds like it. I’m a trained observer, you know. I have the digital downloaded version, because I don’t have a record player. I’m mainly doing this review listening to Dreamsweeper (Full Version).
Happy memories flooded back as I listened to this recording. It isn’t possible for me to listen to this without remembering the live experience. I don’t know what any of the music was called, I don’t really even remember the music, as such. I do remember the mood, the experience. I remember that the gig was, quite simply, mesmerising. I remember allowing myself to shut my brain off to thoughts and just have… feelings. Such was the un-worldly nature of the music, that as it washed over me – and I was happy to be drenched in it – I may have opened my eyes at one point, and I thought, maybe I actually saw, a man… with bagpipes – and it sounded good! Seriously. Bagpipes! Mind warping stuff. (I’m pretty sure I wasn’t hallucinating).
I think the recording needs a dark room and headphones. Noises sweep in and out, rhythms pulse to an occasionally dark, even creepy vibe, so all this and more means that you can be taken on a little journey of reactions and emotions. Words like “ambient” and “soundscape” and comparisons with Eno’s ambient stuff and Robert Fripp’s soundscapy Frippertronics things, and their collaborations may be inevitable, but that would do the music an injustice.
Thirty-odd minutes in and I’ve experienced a gentle building of tension and expectation of a catharsis that seems as if it will never quite come. Sometimes the mood is transitioning just as more undertones have already started coming to the boil. The music seamlessly blends the psychedelic (whatever that is), the unearthly and the faintly sinister (the best kind of sinister). At one point (time is largely irrelevant) the music fades into Kavus’s guitar, sporting an almost sitar-like tone. It builds again towards the conclusion in waves of atmospheric, synthetic rhythm. Then there’s enthusiastic applause and that’s me whistling at the end. Probably.
Potential multiple hyperbole alert: This was right up there with any transcendental musical experience that I had in my “wild years”. If I had a record player then I might have liked to own a vinyl copy, but owning such an artifact, yet no record player, would be like owning an Aston Martin and just staring at it in the garage on weekends. I’m not one to deprive someone else of what may be destined to become quite collectable. But if you get my copy, then promise me you’ll play it!
But hurry! The vinyl version is limited to 250 numbered copies with hand-printed sleeves done by the band. Both versions of Dreamsweeper are available from Bandcamp.
[You can read Roger Trenwith’s interview with Steve Davis HERE.]
01. Dreamsweeper Part 1 (16:47)
02. Dreamsweeper Part 2 (20:50)
03. Dreamseeper (full version) (37:01)
Michael J. York – Pipes, Synths
Kavus Torabi – Guitar, Synths
Steve Davis – Modular Synth
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 23rd July 2020