Released 1995 on Blue Flea
Reviewed by flashbackcaruso, 28/11/2010ce
1. Drifting 11:35
2. Birds 6:15
1. Lost 8:15
2. Space Travel 8:35
There is nothing especially original about this record. In fact it utilizes possibly every cliché in the space rock and shoe-gazing genres. But a definitive statement cannot be anything but generic, and this lays as good a claim as any to being the definitive space rock record. How could it not be, when it is made by the leading practitioners of the Michigan space rock scene: Windy Weber and Carl Hultgren from Windy & Carl, and Randall Nieman from Füxa. The fourth member of this supergroup is Brenda Markovich, of whom little else is known. The term 'supergroup' could be debated here, as I have a feeling this may have started out as a short-lived, augmented, live line-up of Windy & Carl that fell apart due to musical (and possibly personal) differences between Randall and the main duo, hence these recordings being released under the guise of a side project with a different name. Randall & Brenda also appear on one brief track on Windy & Carl's debut album 'Portal' which, like the rest of their albums, is otherwise entirely beatless; Carl's extraordinary guitar reverbs anchored only by Windy's basslines. The music of Once Dreamt is more propulsive and multi-textured, driven along by Brenda, Carl and Randall's percussion, and powered by sheets of white noise and electronics. Don't be fooled by the cover photo which depicts the band on stage, seemingly asleep or frozen in time. This LP provides a hugely invigorating aural experience, highly useful for blowing the cobwebs out of your brain at the end of a tiring day. Consisting of just 4 extended songs, graced with the most obvious of titles and built on the most primary chords, the emphasis here is on execution rather than composition. The melody of title track 'Drifting' is of the type that you've probably heard a hundred times before and must have instantly suggested itself once either Carl or Randall started playing the descending C D Am chord sequence. Windy's lyrics (various phrases rhyming with 'Drifting away with you') were probably made up on the spot ('Staring at my shoe' is one example). But this matters little when these particular musicians are involved. Windy's calm, low voice is among the most comforting I've heard, and it sits just perfectly among the reverbed guitars and wooshing electronic noises. Every now and then the three chord cycle swells upwards to a cathartic E, an obvious chord change, but so right as to be unavoidable. The song knows exactly when to end, coming to a stop halfway between 11 and 12 minutes, a very useful length for such an intoxicating concoction. Track 2, 'Birds', is based around a simple 2 chord riff, stepping down and up between A and G, with occasional upward jumps to C and D. I give the chords only to demonstrate how basic are the building blocks for this music. A beginner could play along on their guitar. The song's title is perhaps suggested by the lead guitar which flutters around the fretboard, remaining in flight for the duration. It is less meditative than the opening track, but equally mesmerising. Side two kicks off with 'Lost', which is taken at a slower, more Velvetsy pace. The title is apt: the rhythm guitar smothers everything else in a fog of distortion, while the lead guitar plays a continuous solo which sounds as if it is trying to find the way out of a maze. It's another 4 chord wonder (G C A B) maintained over a period of just over 8 minutes. All that is needed to make this the ultimate space rock album is a one-chord drone, and this is what we get with the final track. 'Space Travel' is a pounding mantra in E, kept in motion via huge whirring sounds, and pierced through with shards of shimmering organ primed to scrape the wax out of your ears. If you haven't yet succumbed to the record's powerful mood, this one will have you hypnotized in no time.
The four songs on Once Dreamt's 'Drifting' total just under 35 minutes, a shortish running time which puts this record in that grey area between an EP and a full LP. Whatever it is, it definitely doesn't out-stay its welcome. Each track is extended to its natural length and no further, and the whole thing proves that in the right hands clichés become archetypes. Released 15 years ago on limited vinyl it isn't the easiest record to find, but a simple internet search will bring up several blogs from which it can be downloaded. So get Googling, and get Drifting.