I Hear a Darkness
Dreams Come True? They sound much more like nightmares. The songs on Christopher Taylor's debut solo album —coming after years in Grizzly Bear and production work for folk like Dirty Projectors and the Morning Benders— are a set of strange synthesizer slow-jams in which noise and dissonance interject on the retro keytone, and the lyrics are almost entirely pained confessions.
For any conservative fans of his regular band —Grizzly Bear conservationists, as it were— these may indeed be nightmares. Gone is the wooded sound of acoustic guitar, piano, percussion, woodwinds; the love of harmony, of natural decay, of resonant airiness. Dreams Come True takes place strictly in closed confines; an airless sonic space in which every sound feels treated, effected, toyed with. It's a turn from sunniness to the shadows, and, for some, that'll be too terrifying to bear.
But anyone not wedded to musical rootsiness should be able to happily leap into the debut Cant album; should be able to take it as what it is, not what it's not. Side-projects should more often be a place for band-members to explore completely different musical ideas than they get to in their rock'n'roll day-jobs, and, to me, it would feel bizarre to criticize Taylor for not making something more rural-sounding.
The Evil Twin
For in-the-know listeners who've been awaiting this Cant album, the surprise isn't that Taylor has made an album strung together on synths, but that he's made something that doesn't sound much like a pop record. Having worked, recently, on immaculate new-wave/AM-cheese recreation records by Twin Shadow and Blood Orange, it seemed that Taylor would turn around and deliver his own slick-sounding record loaded with hooks. Especially when you learned that Twin Shadow himself, George Lewis Jr., worked as Taylor's studio foil for Dreams Come True.
But, the first Cant LP doesn't much sound like a pop record. Instead, it applies Taylor's meticulous production skills to unexpected ends: not trying to get things sounding as 'good' as possible, but creating compositional conflict, tonal uneasiness, and adding layers that distance the songs from the audience.
"Rises Silent" pits solemn piano and hesitant vocal against wafting synth noise, rattling programming, hisses of static, and a bizarre, overdriven guitar-solo buried in the mix; restlessly shape-shifting throughout four moody minutes that recall Radiohead at their least-approachable. "She Found A Way Out" is a stark, sorrowed guitar ballad that suddenly gets buried in snarling noise, muffled drums, and an air of dramatized 'evil.' The album's title track, symbolically, is one of its most 'out' moments; a barrage of nasty programming and pitch-adjusted vocals coming closer to Warp Records' old ranks of experimental electronic producers than anything Grizzly Bear's done for the label.
Dreams Come True, in such, may not have been what anyone was really expecting, but that shouldn't be leveled as a criticism. Taylor's left-field turn has plenty to recommend it, especially for anyone who possesses a sense of adventure, a love of experimental takes on pop, and a pair of headphones.
Record Label: Terrible/Warp
Release Date: September 13, 2011