Some noise artists allow rhythm to occur spontaneously, evolving out of the juxtaposition of various sound sources. This can even become an entirely passive process, in which the various elements eventually achieve rhythmic stasis based solely on the lowest common denominator of their rhythmic elements (you see this in drone music, where too much rhythm can be distracting to the tonal qualities). Synchronization always wins out in the end, because it is inevitable. Others, typically in harsh noise and post-industrial camps, take the approach of constant novelty: each new cluster of tones is a rhythmic outlier, forming a kind of Frankenstein’s monster of time signatures and tempos. Many New Age and kosmische practitioners make use of slightly more straightforward rhythms, employing electronic clocks and matching layers to achieve a common baseline. Mayville Dream resists all of these categories; Ben Billington accesses rhythm on a different plane. Quicksails actively pursues polyrhythm and multiplicity with an almost preternatural sense, capably blending clock-divided electronics and a myriad of percussion into a single flow, constantly arriving at a grounded but complicated rhythmic confluence.
Because of the insistence of rhythm, Mayville Dream is not a record that one can easily lose oneself within. It’s in constant flux, but not by virtue of any lack of cohesion within its pieces, the longest of which clocks in at 4:35. It refuses to relax into the nebulous realms of calm ambience or helpless cacophony, occupying the fruitful space between them, as if passing betwixt Scylla and Charybdis. Every layer locks in to the larger beat, and yet the forms are so complicated that no moment fully shatters the mystery. You have few opportunities to allow your mind to wander, because each layer is constantly returning the polyrhythm’s pendulum back into intelligibility, inviting you to continue listening. That ceaseless movement pushes and pulls you along with it, without giving you a moment to decide otherwise.
It’s hard to imagine why you would drag your feet. This might be the most accessible record in the Spectrum Spools catalog, not by virtue of simplicity, but because of its vibrance, variety, and vitality. You could probably execute the imperative of “Dancing by Yourself” if only you weren’t listening so intently. But you’d have to stop on a dime, because “A Late Realization” slows to a crawl of dreamy clock manipulations and twittering synth bursts. Mayville Dream is not long enough to exhaust you, but its constant shifts in style between tracks can be disorienting. Without any conceptual center, and with a perpetual motion without progress, the album works on the level of pure visceral enjoyment.
Quicksails is in many ways an apt name for this project. Billington makes swift assays, not deep expeditions. It’s this concision that finally allows Mayville Dream to work; if it weren’t constantly jumping from puddle to puddle, its engines might wear out. But in that diversity lies a series of fully-realized moments that always seem to finish at the right time. Those puddles don’t conceal unconscionable depths, but the oil slick on their surface teems with color and intricate, shifting patterns. As soon as it fascinates, Billington points out another pool. By the end of Mayville Dream, you’re wondering where the time went. It’s a brief vacation where you only get the chance to do one thing at each place you visit, but you’re having too much fun to care about what you might be missing.