ZaRecords Mixtape 3 – Dream

Here it is, at long last, the 3rd Mixtape, themed around dreams and nightmares of all sorts! Next Friday, I’ll upload the 4th Mixtape, just so that I can keep my promise of two podcasts each month! Until then, enjoy!

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A Whisper In The Noise – Dry Land (2007)

This band has been one of my favorites for about five years. They have a depth about them, an approach to their music which is so serious and moving I can’t help but admire them as I enjoy their songs. Sometimes, bands which proclaim their desire to shun traditional rock band instrumentation end up sounding gimmicky, but not A Whisper In The Noise – they manage to turn self-imposed limitations from a badge of dubious honor to a completely conscious and wonderfully crafted musical choice and, at this point, after almost four years of silence, I’m quite anxious for new material from them.

Honestly, I couldn’t tell you a lot about them, it’s one of those bands I haven’t really felt the need to research on a trivia level, I guess they just sound so good to me I haven’t felt the need to explain much of anything by any sort of external means. There’s a familiar minimalism about the way they approach their tunes. Their songs aren’t necessarily complex, or layered, but they’ve always made me resonate with the simplicity and directness of their expression. Simple melodies repeated a certain way lead, in their case, to an often times overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, of eerie familiarity. To me, this music evokes the years when I was reading the Marry Poppins series. I suppose the books themselves weren’t so melancholy and even grim as some of the songs on Dry Land are, but nevertheless, the music stirs those exact memories with pinpoint precision.

One of the oldest dreams I can remember has to do with one of the Marry Poppins books. It was more of a fever dream than anything else, I remember being sick when I devoured these books, but that just adds to its vivid quality. I dreamt I was transported to some sort of celestial circus, where ancient gods and demigods turned into constellations would compete and show off. The Sun was there, and so were Castor and Pollus, the brothers, one very weak and thin, the other very strong, both possessed by a sort of tragic awareness, an overwhelming air of sadness and acceptance at one’s fate. This was over fifteen years ago, so I can’t really remember anything else from the dream. But I know it was very moving, I woke up stirred and deeply touched by what I had experienced and I didn’t want to believe it was over. Sometimes I get these kinds of dreams even now, and I’m always very grateful for them, even though more often than not I can’t tell if they’re nightmares or not.

In any case, A Whisper In The Noise’s music does a tremendous job of invoking these feelings in me. In my view, it’s soporific music, but in a rather ritualistic sense – that is to say, not music to simply put you to sleep, but music to somehow prepare you for it, to get you ready to really experience what lies there, waiting for awareness. And as some secret sea inside of you dries up at this sound, the shapes turning up in the coral and chitin on the bottom look like toys and talking statues. There are sentient shadows and trap doors on the walls in any room filled with this music, and there are guides and discreet signs for the patient and careful. I’ve always wondered why it is that in most fantasy books the portals to other worlds are contained or catalyzed by objects – it’s always a door, a window, a clearly bound space, isn’t it? Well, if I were to find myself in Narnia at one point, I’m pretty sure it’d be while listening to A Whisper In The Noise, and it would be because of the music, not because of some painting on my wall or through the door to my wardrobe. And when I mention Narnia, and, really, any fantasy land, I’m not thinking of it as a paradise meant only to be enjoyed. I mean it as a frightening world, where my logic would fail, a place where nothing is truly safe and where blades of grass have teeth. And yet, mesmerized, I would want nothing more than to get lost in these forests which demand a toll in blood and under the waters which breathe themselves into you.

Here’s a very hypnotized me, leaving you at the mercies of this dream-weaving band making music for madness and mischief.