hen I had reached the third track of this album I decided to turn the lights off. It was already 1:00 AM, but listening to this music in complete darkness felt natural to me. If I could have been in an even more isolated environment to listen to this album I certainly would have made the effort. Let's get one thing straight before I begin to review this album. You need to turn this album up to an acceptable level to enjoy its true complexity. It may be a cliché, but clichés become that way because they are true. To hear each individual snap, crackle, and pop the music needs to be loud and overbearing. You need to be enveloped within the sound, and the music should become a cloak that can envelop you. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I can also assure that this album can function just as well as background music. This is music that can be used to write papers or study to without being overbearing, if you set it at the correct volume. Repetitive enough to not jolt the listener and soothing enough to not get in the way of your thoughts. These are the two things that any great ambient album should be able to do, and Dan Abrams' Stream completes these two tasks effectively.
After turning the lights off, I eventually found that closing my eyes greatly enhanced the listening experience. By getting rid of all visual references to the outside world and totally immersing myself in the sound, I soon went past the blackness of my closed eyes and began to allow the music to create landscapes in my mind. I began to see myself in boat on a river, not with kaleidoscope skies, though. Eerie pastels of green and blue dotted the horizon as I floated along the black river. As songs segued into other songs, and finally the album started over again, I realized that the scenery in my mind hadn’t changed very drastically in form at any time throughout the journey. Yet, I felt completely different from where I was at the beginning. I had been awash with the ambience of the synth lines but was never fully comfortable in my boat because of Abrams’ habit to never settle into a solid, discrete groove that naturally flowed like a placid stream. This work is defined as ambient, but also retains a tinge of something sinister lying beneath the surface, waiting to arise if you let down your guard for too great a time.
Dan Abrams is more commonly known in the IDM world as Shuttle358. His Optimal and Frame LP's for the 12k label have received critical and public acclaim, as well. His releases generally relied on soft synth melodies tempered by click beats that are the currently favored method of rhythm-making by ambient and microsound enthusiasts. The combination of both the click beats and the soothing melodies worked quite well on both releases and have become something of a signature sound for Abrams. Those albums all had a definite compositional quality to them, with no click or pop out of place. However, on Stream, this trend ends. Within the well ordered structure of each track on the release, there are errant sounds, noises that seem to have lost their home and have no apparent order. The easiest answer to the question of why Abrams chose to make his music this way on his first Mille Plateaux release is by looking at the process which he undertook to make this album.
Stream was made through the use of a "script based software synth," which reportedly "randomly culls bits of sound from his [Abrams'] library of sounds and dumps them into a sequencer." This produces the random accumulation of beats and textures that make up the album. It is less of an ambient, peaceful journey into a nicely ordered world, but it remains an interesting release, nonetheless. Obviously, Abrams is trying a new path here that is a slightly unlike the material from his Shuttle358 alias. Stream is, inevitably, a more loop based project with less change and movement in the tracks but still remains an engaging listen over its length.
Overall, this is a sound release from Dan Abrams. While more propulsive and musically interesting than his Shuttel358 releases, Abrams adheres to the theory-heavy aesthetic of the Mille Plateaux label and ends up surprising the listener with an assortment of sounds that complements his previous offerings well.