Potholes on Memory Lane
Greatest hits albums no longer signal the end of musicians’ work product—frankly, with repackaging and reunion trends snowballing in the 1990s, who knows if they ever really did? Toby Marks and his cohorts in Banco de Gaia released such a compilation in 2002, then added at least five more releases to their catalog. But where 10 Years nicely summarized the peaks of a career spent churning out quality (if somewhat anonymous) ambient dub, the new Memories Dreams Reflections tries to fill historical gaps across the 20 years since Marks first fiddled with a sampler. In the process, it portrays Banco de Gaia as less original than they really are.
The first half of disc one includes versions of epic space-rock and psych-rock that informed the genre, but the promise in a jaunty cover of Hawkwind’s “Spirit of the Age” is plundered by a full-length take on Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” too often recalling the theme from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. You could blame Roger Waters’ original for that, but then why play it so faithfully?
The second half finds tracks reworked from Banco de Gaia’s earliest cassette-only releases, now lost to the black hole of uncleared-sample legalese. Without hearing how close they once might have been to The Orb—and for some reason this compilation gives off an air of serious Orb envy—these new versions from the punched-up “Soufie” forward are just more of the same tribal and desert-inspired prog-tronica we’ve come to expect, and little else.
Memories Dreams Reflections steadies on disc two, the first widely available set of live Banco de Gaia recordings. Marks curates a continuous mix of solid performances of tracks that follow the bell curve of his career and collaborations, including “Soufie” (again?), solo worldbeat cuts like “Qurna,” “Drunk as a Monk” from the group’s days as a five-piece, the trio “No Rain” and wailing album closer “Last Train to Lhasa,” arguably Banco’s biggest hit. But for all of the musical fluency displayed and the enthusiastic crowd noise bleeding through, nothing really pops off the background.
Memories Dreams Reflections is a collection of well-meaning but somewhat poorly recycled ideas. Yes, we know “recycled” is what any career retrospective is anyway, but the care taken to accentuate the positive on 10 Years seems absent here. This is jerry-rigged and rather cluttered, and Banco de Gaia’s legacy deserved better. At a minimum, it deserved to be left as 10 Years had first tallied it.