Rob from SBC and Beltism reviews Argali Records’ new experimental compilation, Dream Topography:
In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out I was delighted to have a Beltism track included on this compilation. But let’s pretend I’m impartial and concentrate on the other tracks.
Argali Records is the brainchild of John Lithium (aka Nathan Carter) and continues its reputation for promoting new independent experimental music with this compilation, loosely themed around dreams.
What immediately struck be about this compilation is the variety of artists taking part; in addition to the usual suspects who frequent my quarter of the ambient and experimental nether regions of the Internet, there were several artists completely new to me. And the other notable feature is the quality of the submissions. As we at SBC can testify, you never know what you’re going to get with an open-call compilation, and it’s difficult to please all tastes, so ultimately it’s pretty rare to produce a compilation that doesn’t involve reaching for the Skip button at some point, but the quality on this one is consistently high.
The album opens with one of its most melodic tracks, Cousin Silas’ evocative ‘Fever Dreams’, with its repeated piano motif full of half-memories and yearning. Glove of Bones’ ‘Psychopomp (Fuck Turquoise)’ that follows shortly after is an altogether more disturbing affair – the dreams that inspired this dark and damaged piece were the result of blue cheese and peyote buttons before bedtime. Mean Flow’s ‘Dream Land’ is a short drone, dark but also meditative, unsettling but cleverly textured.
One of my favourite tracks is Ars Sonor’s ‘Shattered Dreams’, a barren haunting soundscape, redolent of winter, possibly a nuclear one. James Lowe’s ‘Transparency One’ continues in the same vein, a fragile and chilling peace which unfolds into a collage of disturbing sounds that would work nicely in a Tarkovsky film.
Jack Hertz’s ‘Half Moon Dream’ is delightfully textured, rich with unnerving sounds drifting in and out of focus; I don’t think this is a particularly happy dream, but to answer Bill Nelson’s question, I’m fairly sure Jack dreams in colour. Jaime Munarriz’s ‘Out of the Dark Zone’ swirls ominous bell-like (campaniform?) sounds, cleverly teasing us that something beautifully melodic, or terrifyingly anarchic, will happen, but much like trying to read a newspaper in a dream, we never get a clear view for long enough to be sure.
Playman54’s music is always a delight, and ‘Ghost Echoes 2’ on this compilation is no exception. I don’t know Colin’s influences, but I often find there is something in his music that makes me think of Harold Budd or Roger Eno; he has a way of making his reverb sound reassuringly expensive, I just want to sink back and wallow in it.
My two favourite tracks on the compilation appear back to back, starting with ‘Liquid Tale of a Dying Star’ by Citiborax. One of the longer tracks on the compilation, this track takes the listener on a journey, reaching a threatening peak midway through, then at the ten minute mark a beautiful and haunting guitar refrain, joined later by scattered analog synth reassures you that it’s all going to be OK and it was only a dream.
The following piece, ‘Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia’ (that’s the single, right there guys) by Sharpen!Strokes is another track that cleverly forms beauty from chaos. Initially suggesting you might be in for seven minutes of harsh noise, the saw waves give way to melodic burst of bleeps and an underpinning of mechanical rhythm. I can’t find the words to do it justice, but it’s genius.
This is a very solid compilation; if you like experimental or dark ambient music, I would strongly recommend this album as you’ll find many tracks that you will want to return to again and again. If you’re new to experimental music, or just experimental-curious, do give this a try; it’s relatively free of white noise and static and packed with ideas and ingenuity. It’s ‘name your price’ on Bandcamp, so you really have no excuse not to own this album.