Portugal’s dreamweapon take their name from the 1990 Spacemen 3 live album ‘Dreamweapon: An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music’, who themselves took inspiration from the work of minimalist drone – or ‘Dream Music’ – visionary La Monte Young and a 1965 multimedia piece titled ‘Rites of The Dreamweapon’ by original The Velvet Underground drummer Angus MacLise. Fast-forward to 2018 and dreamweapon, the band, are continuing to keep the torch burning – perfectly embodying the timeless mantras of less is always more and psychedelia as constantly-evolving pastiche.
[Album Press Release]
I don’t often quote press releases in my reviews, but this seemed to introduce dreamwaepon as well as I could… and it also set me up nicely to get into writing about this album. That’s because the final sentence somehow reflects where I have been going with my musical taste in the last year or so, or at the very least represents the border of accessibility against which I seem to be challenging myself the most… that of more minimal zoned out music that sees the stripping back of ideas before building them up again. The ideas of ‘timelessness’ ‘mantra’ and ‘less is always more’ are ones that I have found myself increasingly subscribing to, which is why dreamweapon are pushing against an open door with me on this one. So when band member Andre Couto (who is also bassist with 10000 Russos) states the following I was both happy and intruiged:
We approached this album in a completely different way to our previous material. Firstly, we decided to record it ourselves which we’ve never done before and this opened up a lot more freedom to experiment and secondly, it’s our most truly-spontaneous record yet. We recorded the tracks live in one take as we all improvised over minimalistic drum-machine loops – this a real departure from the ‘song-based music’ we’re used to making.
For those familiar with dreamweapon’s eponymously titled debut album, which I liked very much, this second release comes as something of a revelation. Comprising four long tracks it is testament to the band members that these are totally spontaneous and improvised… because they are all really excellent and take their music, as well as the listener, onto another level.
‘SOL’ kicks off with ‘Mashinne’ and sees dreamweapon immediately drop into a fuzzy veiled groove. There’s a bleakness to the track that in many ways makes you feel disconnected from your surrounding, I guess the title would support this idea. It feels cold as the motorik beat takes you into the middle of the music. Once there you see that there is more going on than you first realised, that there is more than chilly detachment… there are also pockets of warmth fizzing around. Altogether this has a gradual cumulative effect of drawing you into a trance-like state which is strangely meditative, though not wholly blissful.
After that ‘Blauekirshe’ feels somehow softer and warmer from the outset. The guitar immediately adds a more ‘human’ feel to the track weaving, as it does, in and out of the beats and drones which give the track it’s hazy atmosphere. At around the five minute mark this haziness is amplified as a low-key, almost numb, vocal comes in giving the feeling of an out of body experience… again this sense of detachment, but this time a mental rather than mechanical one. As the track goes on these feelings intensify as the band, slowly but surely, concentrate their playing. An amazing track!
After that I’m not sure what I wanted next, it was like ‘Blauekirshe’ has opened some sort of door to the borderland of my musical appreciation… it had softened me up for some more experimentation… and, as you may be able to tell, to the limits of my explaining it. Where I am, as I listen to third track ‘Qram’, is as open minded as I remember being when I’ve heard some new music, so as the dissonant beginning begins to coalesce into a more solid groove on this, the longest track on the album I felt like I was read for anything. What I got was another tightly played piece that really took me off into yet another zone. Previous thoughts of warmth and cold had been extinguished by the incessancy of ‘Qram’ as dreamweapon just kept on building and building as if climbing up a sonic mountain into the clouds… a musical topography whose peak was totally obscured, yet that mattered not a jot… the summit, probably not even known by the band as they played towards it, getting closer yet always beyond the next ridge finally reaching a plateau around the eleven minute mark. In the end the destination was of no importance, as with most improv’ it was all about the journey, and what a trip that was.
After that it was something of a nice surprise that ‘Monte da Virgem’ is a far more expansive track that sees dreamweapon move up through the gears into a high tempo motorik beat that loops round in what feels like a perpetual motion. Within that are spacey flourishes that entwine themselves around that unremitting central beat like tentacles brushing through coral. And yet while this relative wall of sound hits you, there is still a sense of minimalism here as the drums persistently come to the fore, and the siren chants underneath them call you in.
In ‘SOL’ dreamweapon have made an album that for me is really beguiling. The first three tracks take you increasingly inside yourself, on an inner journey that at first feels detached and cold; something which you feel yourself transcending by the time you get to the ‘Qram’. It is left to ‘Monte da Virgem’ at the end to bring you back with the result that you feel that the band have taken you on a sonic trip but, importantly, not left you there. This is done through tracks that seem to be highly structured, yet are one-take improvisations; something that to a non-musician like myself is quite breathtaking.
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