Dreams Top Rock
immy Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo. John Keats - “heard melodies are sweet but those unheard are sweeter”. Twin Peaks never really being about who killed Laura Palmer. The space between the spokes of a wheel. The diastolic gap between heartbeats when the atria flush with blood. How in a lucid dream you can’t adjust light levels or read a digital clock but you can fly…
The link between electronica and shoegazing is made more explicit every day. The real descendents of Loveless aren’t Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or Joy Zipper, or even the Kevin Shields all-stars version of Primal Scream, but rather the likes of Manitoba, Boards Of Canada and M83. The technological developments of the last thirteen (13!) years mean that one man (or two) with a laptop can now produce in a matter of months something akin to what it took Kevin Shields 3 years, 20-odd engineers, countless guitar overdubs and £250,000 to pioneer. A large part of the allure of Loveless is the mythology around it, that Shields could never follow it up, that it nearly sent Creation bankrupt, that, to this day, no one has recorded anything with a guitar that sounds remotely like it, despite more than a few explicit attempts. Nothing else born of a six-string sounds quite so alien, so intangible, so warped by a different sun. It’s not surprising then that the things that sail closest to its orbit are manufactured via utterly different means, or, at the least, by people practised in what began as utterly different arts.
At its best, shoegazing gives substance to unheard melodies, makes you feel like you’ve eaten too much fruit and inhaled too much vapour, like your blood is thin of cells, your plasma stretched by spacious molecules of oxygen. It blurs the lines between sense and senses, gives rise to synaesthetic sensations the likes of which inspired Blake and Coleridge and Chapterhouse alike.
For Marcus Schmickler’s fourth outing as Pluramon, a shoegazing analogue to his parallel careers (who has only one these days?) in IDM and electronica (as Wabi Sabi, Corvette and Sator Rotas [hooray for palindromes]), he enlists the voice and words of Julee Cruise, the Roadhouse singer from Twin Peaks, erstwhile muse to David Lynch and talent-scout to Angelo Badalamenti. Dreams Top Rock is pleasurable like the memory of a long bath or a distant kiss. It aspires to Loveless, and it reaches as close as anything else ever has: closer even.
Cruise’s vocals are too sweet for me, too childlike and deliberately will o’ the wisp where Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher were uneasy, threatening, erotic. There’s nothing here as sharply shocking as the opening snare rap and impacting tumult of “Only Shallow”, nothing as airless, weightless and strange as “To Here Knows When”, nothing as future-past as “Soon”. “Flageolea” plays out like slow space odyssey jazz, an elegy for electric currents, taking the blueprint somewhere else, revealing a link that now seems obvious. “Time For A Lie” and “Time Catharsia MX” merge voices and melodies, treating them differently, while “Noise Academy” and “Have You Seen” defy gravity as well as anything Ride or Slowdive ever managed. Schmickler’s manipulation of glitch and electronic, a great deal more subtle than Medicine, say, marks an evolution since 91 that the original generation of shoegazers by and large failed to adapt to.
My copy of Dreams Top Rock was scratched towards the end of the final track—I must have listened to five minutes of true hum and glitch quite happily before I realised that time hadn’t moved on since 3:39. Tellingly, this was the part of the record that I enjoyed the most.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2004-01-30