The Poison Paradox is an elegant introduction to In My Dreams. Close and intimate double-tracked vocals take us by the metaphorical hand and lead us through some delightful, observational lyrics, with oblique images and meanings that sound simultaneously insightful and unknowable.
Warming, subtle bass notes thrum at the edge of our listening, and intricate, interwoven guitar parts enter and exit in very different sound states as gentle synth strings add warmth. An organ enters towards the end, and the whole is a careful, delicate delight.
We move on to The Rebel, where some Radiohead-esque guitar phrasing lends a more indie edge to proceedings in the early stages. Then a complex vocal arrangement delivers some interesting layers.
Forgetful Boy plays with vocal rhythms in an unexpected way, staccato and expectation-defying. The gently-sung melody wanders away from this convention before long, too. Constantly organic, and again using the duality of acoustic and electric guitar capture to create lovely dynamics, the production is very, very clean and focused, with texture and colour playing as important a role as the lyrics and instrument voices themselves.
I’m put in mind of the works of Gomez and Kevin Tihista’s Red Terror because of the choice of instruments, vocal delivery and the production choices themselves.
The title track continues in similar vein, though this time a little more summery and gleeful in feel: ‘I belong to you / In my dreams’. The complex acoustic part is nailed down with plenty of string and fret noise, while the electric wanders through the production panned to one side. The lead vocal sits in the middle, and the backing vocals are placed all around the listener in an adroit set of choices that are charming and beguiling in equal measure.
Southern Song is a more discordant affair, with plenty of unexpected chord changes, but with a consistent treatment in terms of production. Now we experience some surf guitar portamento that’s been drenched in reverb for spot effects – along with plenty of other smartly-placed guitar dynamics.
C Side continues the trend of occasional quirky note choices that poke through the sweeter chords and the listener begins to realise the scale of what In My Dreams is weaving and delivering. The accompaniment to the vocal is so closely linked to it; so sympathetic to its ebbs and flows that it would be hard to imagine one without the other. It’s a quite unique contemporary listening experience, which makes it hard to draw comparison – in a good way.
In My Room finally introduces a fresh palette – we get percussion, more strings and some brass parts to augment the flavours that we’ve been getting used to. Remarkbly, about two-thirds of the way through its run time, the tune appears to end and we are left in the acoustic of a children’s playground for a while…
Then the song picks up again with all-new parts and a new tempo – for less than a minute!
We go from one of the most complex arrangements on the album to the simpler Knocked, though real care is given to single note guitar melodies in terms of rhythm and the overall mix. There’s a wealth of skill on display here…
Tuesday Friends continues to stretch expectation yet again, with complex guitar parts that develop right through the arrangement. A complex lyric keeps things chopping along, too – wave after wave of the narrative comes hot on the heels of each preceding line into the song’s final and delicate breakdown of guitars.
For its minute and a half, penultimate track The Girl from the North allows bass guitar to feature more prominently and it drives the song hard. Then, like In My Room, the piece halts, there’s a gap and a final few disjointed bars of guitars come back in…
…leading into We Roll. Accordian makes an entrance, panned hard to one side and providing a counter melody to the double-tracked vocal. Guitar layers are slowly introduced and fill the sound spectrum delightfully. Ukulele is spanking out the rhythm, the sound of strings making a very human percussion. Female backing vocals arrive to introduce yet another new colour, and the album comes to a warming conclusion.
To sum-up, this is a beautifully connected body of work that has an agenda of gentle care and wonderful, wide-eyed story-telling. It smacks of an uncompromising vision and an affinity for the work that’s both singular and compelling. This album loves guitars, all guitars, and whilst I was yearning for some drums in the early stages, by the end I was convinced by their absence. Dreamy and very human, In My Dreams is an organic and authentic knockout.