A good retrospective CD should do two things: show an artist’s musical evolution and movement over time, and highlight the consistency of the quality of their output. Pulling from 10 years of live performances, dreamSTATE’s A Decade Dreaming proves itself to be a good retrospective CD in both regards. Scott M2 and Jamie Todd, the duo that make up dreamSTATE, have been staples on the Toronto electronic music scene since the late 90s, turning out a wide variety of music, largely in the spacemusic vein with a strong emphasis on live improv. A Decade Dreaming captures not only that, but also their extensive collaborations with other like-minded artists and thus, the constant evolution of what dreamSTATE actually is.
On their web site they very kindly give “extended liner notes” on the performances here. This is a great resource as you listen–this way you discover, for example, that there’s a third synth collaborator, Eric Hopper, playing on the gentle tribute to Pink Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright; that Alan Bloor (aka Phlode), who creates free-form instruments out of hardened steel, the sounds from which he runs through processors, thickens the atmosphere of the dark industrial drift of “Elinvar”; that ambient artist James Johnson lends his soundcrafting to “Universe City Line,” which makes amazing use of a field recording of (if I had to guess) a subway.
All of which is to say that A Decade Dreaming presents dreamSTATE as a fluid, morphing thing that starts as a duo but becomes whatever it is in the moment, always existing to create, to experiment, regardless of form. That being said, there’s a unique sense of shifting energy, track to track, as new sensibilities are added. There’s a wide spectrum here. It begins with spacey flows, including the sad overtones of “Laika’s Last Orbit” and the fantastic but too-short “Jharna Revealed,” which feels like it has a soul of its own. On the other end are exercises in grinding avant-noise, like “The Storm Within,” which was part of a series of improv drones based on a certain key. Here, a treated cello tears through the sound in a wild tangle. It’s the sort of thing that loses me, quite frankly. “Elinvar,” which I noted earlier, flirts with the edge of tolerance for me at times.
All in all, however, A Decade Dreaming is an intense, vivid trip through the duo’s history, filled with energy, art and possibility. It is available as a free download or in CD form for just $5. Either way, it’s a CD you must have in your collection. And here’s to another decade, at least, from dreamSTATE.
Available from the dreamSTATE web site.