Dream State – ‘Still Dreaming’

By Ian Kenworthy

To quote Quentin Tarantino; “you had my curiosity… but now you have my attention.”

Dream State rose quickly, establishing themselves with a series of well-regarded EPs and an album. Just as quickly, they fell apart. For guitarist Aled Evans, the dream became a nightmare. With his career trajectory abruptly halted, the only option was to rebuild the band. After recruiting new vocalist Jessie Powell, they tested the water with last year’s ‘Untethered’ EP. It was a success, not just proving their worth, it proved the best was yet to come; and here it is.

The ‘Still Dreaming’ EP takes their promise and strides forward. After their previous work established their skill at mixing alt-rock and pulsing dance beats they’ve chosen not to repeat themselves. Instead, they’ve expanding their sonic palette and taking it in a grittier, more personalised direction that, while you can still compare the sound to bands like As Everything Unfolds, is confident in being its own thing.

They achieve this in numerous ways but mainly by focusing on each member’s unique abilities. In an era where many heavy bands pad out their sound with synths it’s also gratifying to hear electronic sounds being used in a way that is so stark and interesting. This means that on each song the synths, instruments and vocals are all layered into a series of carefully woven textures so that each element an essential part. In effect, the synth layers are the song, not the garnish.

Surprisingly, the sound has quite a raw edge which feels almost like a reaction to their previous EP. This has the effect of drawing focus to Powell’s performance. Her voice is rougher, more personal, and often harsher. This is a great choice, especially as so many bands over-process their singers’ vocals. Here the recording techniques retain her authenticity, so even huge hooks that fuel ‘Chin Up Princess’ feel heartfelt and catchy. Highlights include ‘Anxious State Of Mind’ where she sings like she’s fronting a Swedish symphonic metal band or the guttural ‘Day Seeker’ which almost seems designed to bury the band’s previous work.

The EP has seven tracks and each is part of a larger puzzle so even the throbbing ‘Introduction’ is an essential piece of the overall sound. It’s designed to drag you directly into the title track where you’ll notice that, although the same line is repeated, the music swells behind it creating a surprisingly atmospheric hook. In fact, atmosphere is entwined with every song’s individual approach, so the unsettling ‘Calling Out’ recalls something ‘King Of Limbs’ era Radiohead might have put out, while the much heavier ‘Day Seeker’ thrives on ugly metalcore discomfort. Even the instrumental ‘Set Free’ with its tapping beat and gentle guitar arpeggios is absolutely delightful, again flowing easily and effortlessly towards its conclusion.

‘Still Dreaming’ is a restlessly creative hybrid of sounds. Rich, creative and filled with fully-formed songs it’s a delight from start to finish. A vital release.

IAN KENWORTHY

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