Two disk set of new droneworks by Robert Davies. Over two hours. The first, "Aura Sublime", is a flawless meditative, pastoral treat. The second, "In Darkness Dreaming", draws the listener into slightly darker realms of dreams and brooding enigmas. In the tradition of Mathias Grassow and Oophoi.
"Robert Davies is a musician-composer whose muse sits between the painterly, the cinematic, and a certain animistic spirituality. His myspace page’s “about me” name-checks painters in one breath and cult film director, Jan Švankmajer, in the next. And a quote from the quirky Czech finds its way onto the liner here: “Unless we again begin to tell fairy tales and ghost stories before going to sleep and recounting our dreams upon waking, nothing more is to be expected of our Western Civilization.”
So Shadow Dreams might be seen as a music-mediated collection of life-affirming dream recountings, its twin discs, overlapping in tone, offering differentiated takes on the Švankmajer-inspired mission statement. The first disc, subtitled “Aura Sublime”, is more an affair of meditative calm with intimations of brooding, whose ambivalent tone is set by its opener. “Dragonfly Hollow” slowly settles into Eno-esque flotation attended by sotto voce murmurations of unease secreting themselves in the contours of its calm – reminding of the ambiguity that disqualified Music for Airports from becoming music for airports. “Aura Sublime” harbours several of these semi-bucolic idylls darkening at the edges, some enigmatic, like the undercurrents in dark water of “Subterranean Descent”, some almost eerie, queasy theremin-like curlicues trailing out from the terrain of “Spectral Visions” as it ventures into Mathias Grassow’s long-format drone estate. Disc One in effect extends the prevailing Zen garden-like serenity of texture and mood of Davies’ first two DataObscura releases, Sub Rosa and Garden of Twilight, whereas Disc Two starts with thicker treaclier timbres as if aligned with his third, Primordial. But in fact “In Darkness Dreaming” offers a more varied oneiromancy, displaying Davies’ development as composer/sound designer to best effect. Tracks are locatable on a cline at one end of which is the more reined-in and pensive styling of “Nocturnal Reverie”, whose delicate chiming Rhodes reflections lie in the Budd/Eno tradition of drifting keyboard études. Further along, pieces like “Arcane Reservoir Of Knowledge” are environmental ambient soundscapes with naturalist-ritualist leanings, whose solemnities suggest a less precious American cousin to the Italian Hic Sunt Leones and Umbra labels. At the more expansive end, “Plateau Of Delusions” goes out on a limb, ramping things up to the realms of Big-Sky Wide-Plains space music adumbrated by Messrs Roach and Brennan.
Lest the reader be wary, be assured that Davies’ meditative mission is no exercise in sedate staring-into-space. The likes of “Remote Phenomenon”, whose melodic figure is pared to bare bones in a deliberately reduced palette of mono-tonal fields merging, are more psychoactive than sedative. And even if the movement of Shadow Dreams
is characterised by a languorous suspension, as of dust captured in light rays, luminous life is breathed over it by Davies’ sonorous sensibility."
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