Broken down and simplified, the album performs in one of two ways: (a) as a documentation of a musician in performance/time/space, or (b) as an album as album, the recording equipment utilized less like a camera, more for an instrumental quality. For example, a “live” album is a straightforward document, while an album labored track-by-track falls under “b.” All albums, in either form, do document in a retrospective manner, but the difference between “a” and “b” is the difference between an observer and a participator. Most albums fall heavily under one category or the either, but occasionally there is a sweet spot in which these two Venn circles meet.
Although there are very excellent exceptions, lo-fi recording’s main utility is to document. In that vein, The History of Dreaming in Colour is a document, a retrospective work of Dreamcolour as a music collective. However, it’s not just a series of live recordings placed one after the other and presented in a manner like “hey, here’s us and how we play live.” Rather, Dreamcolour approach the document and treat it like something to be performed beyond the original performance. There are moments of sonic abstraction (“THE STUD PT 1”), next to moments of melodic drift (“MLK PT 2”), next to moments of childish expression (“THE BARN PT 2”), all within the context of being a representation of what it is that Dreamcolour look to achieve. The songs appear in multiple parts, segments preclude other parts, the documents layering documents into an aesthetic that suits lo-fi/abstract/psychedelia/Kraut-ness. Abrupt song transitions and breaks make perfect (and sometimes the only) sense when moving from document to document.
Where other Dreamcolour albums have captured long improvisations, The History of Dreaming in Colour captures a history of the action of capturing itself. The songs/parts are cut from their usual cassette-length sides and arranged according to that of a digital format: small, clip-like entries from previous recordings, placed in rapid succession. Fitting, considering this is their first digital release; it feels like an assortment of retro-inspired sounds served in digital portions. There’s only one song that breaks past the four-minute mark (“MLK pt. 2,” seven and a half), and it still doesn’t have a long improvisation feeling. In fact, it feels like a Can jam, chopped into a sectioned commercial of partial pieces, served in a “with Dreamcolour, you get songs such as…” way. It’s an effect that makes me feel as if longer, abstract pieces are more accessible, which perhaps speaks to the effectiveness of the album’s sequencing. Point being is that there is very little about the album that acts as a simple form of documentation, but rather one that adjusts time and history into a semi-conscious stream of memories. Not only is attention given to each track as it exists by the track, but the separation of parts show the attention given to the memories within the original recordings.
With all this in mind, my apprehensiveness towards this sort of segmentation seems to come from my own preference for longer improvisation. In chopping up these pieces and scattering across the album, the ability to get lost in the visceral space of the songs becomes somewhat impossible. Then again, as I stated above, this could all be sign of the strength of the album’s presentation in “retrospectives,” making the listener crave for a larger, longer memory. In any case, it at least presents what sort of action the “retrospect” produces.
I wouldn’t call The History of Dreaming in Colour either a gateway or an endpoint for Dreamcolour, but the idea of a “retrospective” album conjures up the notion that better/other things are ahead. Member Alex Gray releases music like it’s going out of style, while also playing in Sun Araw, and has already retired the name of a project (Heat Wave) that ended up on our list of 2012 favorites so far. While not the strongest Dreamcolour release, it definitely provides an excellent example of the process, skewing, and importance of documentation.