A constantly evolving interpretation of dreams from experimental music titans
It’s a well-known rule of thumb to anyone with a lick of social skills that you should avoid telling others about your dreams. To everybody else but yourself, your dreams are a complete and utter bore. Simply put: do not bother recounting that dream you had last night during conversation. Nobody cares. Now if you’re a titan of experimental music, art or film, then it’s a different story. If this is the case, there’s a better chance that your account will be a little more interesting. F.M. Einheit (best known for his work with Einstürzende Neubauten), proves it with his new record, Exhibition Of A Dream.
Recorded back in 2017 for an exhibition at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Paris, Exhibition Of A Dream is made up of 12 tracks, each one being Einheit’s interpretation of a dream from a variety of musicians, visual artists and filmmakers. He pulls from the dreams of legends like Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), Susan Stenger (Band of Susans) and the late Genesis P-Orridge (Psychic TV, Throbbing Gristle). Some of these collaborators even provide vocals on their corresponding track.
With a concept like this, and a Bandcamp description that refers to “temporary and evolving patterns of shapes and forms,” one might expect a more abstract, alienating listening experience than what the album actually delivers. Still, there’s no reason to complain. While almost none of these tracks could be called “songs” in the conventional sense, they nevertheless share an underlying musicality that humanizes the album’s arcane concept.
The opening track, “Memory,” establishes this right away with warm, inviting guitars, flutes and a jazzy rhythm unfurling while Thai film director Apichatpong Weerasethakul provides narration. The guitars and percussion fade out then return later in the track with renewed vigor, becoming quirkier and more angular. On the subsequent track, “Alpine Traum,” Lee Ranaldo monologues over spacey, droning guitars that recall his Sonic Youth days, his inflection locking into the rhythm seamlessly. Colorful imagery complements the track’s textural warmth, as he details “a dream in purple shades” and “an obsidian sky, one frozen moment fixed forever.”
Other tracks are colder and more on-edge, like “Un Sognio Tessuto In Tapeto,” whose slinking bassline weaves through a menacing piano motif and dissonant flutes. These slowly melt away to make room for tribal drums, screeching industrial sounds and distorted field recordings, which yet again melt away, leaving behind only a tranquil drone. It feels like a moment of respite from the chaos, like being in the eye of a storm. Finally, the drums, bass and flutes return in full force atop a machine-like skitter and an undercurrent of sheer noise.
This sort of formal unpredictability is one of Exhibition Of A Dream’s defining features. Most of the tracks are highly dynamic, much like a dream; evolving, shifting and taking surreal, unexpected turns. Bizarre sonic elements—field recordings of laughing children, brief explosions of white noise—crop up in fleeting moments, like flashes from your waking life. Still, it rarely feels alien; an underlying humanity almost always shines through and invites people to keep listening. In fact, the music is often more interesting than the vocals. The vocal performances are sometimes dull, and the lyrics can be hard to follow. Luckily, this tends to work to the album’s benefit, as the vocals become one with the music and the two are heard as one and the same. But other times, they just sound dull, like on “Dark Dream (In D).”
“Dream, 17 February 2017” is one of the best tracks, and perhaps one of the best tracks of 2021. Its undulating bass line, jazzy drumming and waves of buzzsaw guitar feedback reek of Black Flag’s The Process of Weeding Out EP. Still, it retains a subtly dreamlike atmosphere, with clean piano lines and a serene ambience underpinning all the chaos.
The album’s centerpiece and crowning achievement is undeniably Genesis P-Orridge’s “Creation Re/Created.” Musically, the track risks slipping into a pseudo-mystic, New Age sort of corniness, but it’s saved by a slow-building intensity and the sincerity of P-Orridge’s vocal delivery. This takes on considerable weight after her death nearly a year ago at the time of writing. Her 15-minute account of creation is metaphysical, but also deeply personal, especially when she describes an encounter with a faceless, cloaked being whose age, gender and physical shape are concealed (if the being possesses such features at all). Fittingly, this is one of the few cuts on the album where the vocals feel front-and-center and not just something to be perceived as part of the music. And if anyone on this record deserves this treatment, it’s P-Orridge.
The notion of dreams as a spiritual tool, a window into the collective unconscious, is all over this record. To those who disregard this and instead subscribe to the unspiritual theory that dreams are merely the result of circuit activation in the brain: listen to Exhibition Of A Dream. Maybe it won’t result in a radical change in worldview, but perhaps the music within will at least make them wonder. And really, that’s all one could ask for.