Dreamend – The Long Forgotten Friend

Dreamend - The Long Forgotten FriendDreamend have hit on something original. Putting a folksy spin on shoegaze, this Chicago band scores on their powerfully esoteric new LP, The Long Forgotten Friend. These tracks fill space using cymbal heavy drum beats, bass, acoustic, and astral electric guitars, as well as keys, a banjo, and layered vocals. But luckily all this doesn’t chase away the sweet stench of loneliness permeating the record.

The 10 song CD (or special 14 song vinyl release plus bonuses) manages cohesion while offering variety. The end result pulses from the speakers like the riotous beating heart of a sleeping vulture in mid-nightmare.

But listeners may be conflicted. First, some could argue that the tonal qualities of particular instruments are lost in the wash of sound. But this is by design. And more importantly, it’s effective. The tracks play like a series of occult dreams, leaving the sleeper a bit uncomfortable but somehow drawn to the feeling and the fading memory of each dream. Other listeners will debate whether the banjo meshes with the psychedelic shoegaze sound. This pigeonholed instrument does play a prominent role, but the plucking is not pushed in the mix, so it blends well. The main criticism should be that songs often end unfulfilled, making The Long Forgotten Friend sound more like a sampling than an LP. True, a lot of potential is abandoned, but in knowing when to say when, Dreamend steer clear of over inflation.

After the floating intro “Last Night on Feather River”, the disc starts with “If Only for a Day”, an alluring track played at a jogging pace. The numbed vocal¬† dresses the throbbing music underneath like a jumper from the Golden Gate bridge calmed by his view fixed on the gray blue water lapping below. “The Tulip Staircase” relays a mesh of instruments and sounds that coolly wash ears in harmony.

“Are You Waking”, “Your Kiss”, and “Scratch” impress less than their predecessors, but still win using flavorful vocals and soundscapes inspired by songs from early Smashing Pumpkins, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead.

“Fourth of July at the Asylum” responds with vibrancy using a series of drum hits over a moaning slide guitar, keys, and plucked banjo. The track marches through a series of starts and breaks before finding confidence. Then the acoustic ballad “Remember You Smiling” stands stark naked among the more richly layered compositions, lethargically singing, “Heartbreak keeps me silent and close to you /¬† And I don’t know why / Remember you smiling over there / I remember her so, so well”. The backing vocals endow the song with a spooky but very warm and welcome conclusion. Instrumental track “The Third Casket” starts with an electric guitar picking through chords, then adds keys with heavy reverb and a rapping snare, spilling sounds into space but never shaking the sadness in spite of the crowded instrumentation. The album ends with “Deathwatch Carnival 1965”, a psychedelic industrial whir over a slow driving beat. This track is unlike the rest of the album, and not nearly as good. But still, the chantey vocal with the banjo in back nearly creates a soundtrack to some bizarre American western.

The Long Forgotten Friend is soured sweetness, Dreamend’s thoughtful gift offered not in thanks but in sympathy. Curious listeners and anyone remotely interested in shoegaze should unwrap this with care.