A winged photograph flutters out from an archaeologist's hands, fixed to the frequencies of analog synthesist Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. A sled glides over ephemeral ice-fantasias, underscored by the cascading keys of composer Bing & Ruth. The French Alps cave from the weight of dusty constellations, set to the tender melancholy of New Zealand band Yumi Zouma. Flashes of imagined worlds are captured, cataloged, and kept oscillating inside S&S Presents: Dreams, a double LP compilation and 20-page gatefold book. Both a retrospective and an introduction, the release presents an ongoing project that has been steadily murmuring below the din of online music culture for half a decade. Eighteen original sound compositions, handmade collages, and written vignettes — creative exchanges between musicians and New York-based website Stadiums & Shrines — preserved, sequenced, and released in collaboration with Cascine.
Dreams began in 2012, as the formative era of “music blogging” — a staple medium of the mid-2000s DIY movement — was shifting towards a more industry-centric ecosystem. On the fringes of this evolution, rather than accelerate with it, S&S chose to slow down, to navigate from a different vantage, alongside creators and listeners. Founder Dave Sutton and visual artist Nathaniel Whitcomb envisioned an open-ended multimedia series, inviting artists to musically interpret black-and-white collages, cut from a 1950s tourism book and recomposed into pieces of physical and video art. First, they asked friends: former Ponytail guitarist Dustin Wong, who’d actualize vastly layered and sparkling sonic fabrics for his track ‘Japan’ (later appearing on his 2013 LP with Thrill Jockey). Jordan Lee of Mutual Benefit, who rendered a rustling windswept piece for ‘Bali’ which in turn became the first notes to his breakout album, Love’s Crushing Diamond.
Once the sound compositions came back, Sutton, along with Matthew Sage (who has previously collaborated with Whitcomb on his album A Singular Continent), wrote collaborative narrative prose poems conversing with both the sound and the image, completing each of these shared reveries. This writing fixates on the spellbinding proprioceptive trickery that the dream world offers us, and the spatial logic that defies our constrictive reality. Ultimately Dreams’ texts feature enchanting narratives, however elusive, that invite readers to ponder, doubt, and dwell in. These exercises were deemed “Dreaming” because they invoked places these collaborators would never step foot in; terrain defined in large part by the imagination, far outside the confines of any canonized cultural history or accuracy. Each Dream determines its norms, its own fleeting universe. Distinct logic and location appear bent and blurred, slightly uncanny, but eventually recognizable, much like the activity in the subconscious mind.
The collection splays out like a playlist traversing expansive locales. As listeners engage the expanding and collapsing worlds conjured by the collaborators, they are ushered through lush and dynamic audio accompaniment. Julie Byrne, with Eric Littmann, swoons and slides across the revolving horizon in Spain, her voice, and synthesizers flowing in like the dry wind above dusty cobblestones, marked by rustic acoustic plucking. M. Sage’s song for Sweden rattles like a rickety sea of plunderphonic orchestration lapping at the rocky borders of the morning. Cuddle Formation and Emily Reo take to bobbing and wiggling like fruit ripe for reptilian plucking in Bermuda’s forest, with a sweet organic electronic bounce that sways and clicks like rare flowers and twigs in a subequatorial breeze.
The sequence throughout the four sides of vinyl — selected from over three hours of recorded Dreams — drifts from warm washes of texture and melody (Sea Oleena, Ricky Eat Acid) to meditative bedroom-folk (Julia Lucille) to exploratory electronica (Sound of Ceres, Teen Daze) to feverish drone (Megafortress & Noah Wall). The record closes under the stringed shadows of Gem Club, wallowing within, as the Dream text suggests, "the morose well of teary eyes at twilight."
Never staying locked into one mood or mode, like the strange turns we are prone to taking in strange dreams, this collection is a journey, comprised of music, images, and text, and assembled with collaborative enthusiasm and concise curation, extended to listeners for exploration, interpretation, and contemplation. The double LP and gatefold book, with three digital bonus tracks, is available from Cascine in June 2017.
Sea Oleena - Portugal (A Lift)
Bing & Ruth - Quebec (Climber)
Yumi Zouma - France (Grands Boulevards)
M. Sage - Sweden (Landskap)
Mutual Benefit - Bali
Dustin Wong - Japan
Julie Byrne & Eric Littmann -Spain
Ricky Eat Acid - Algeria (Outside your house...)
Julia Lucille - Norway
Sound of Ceres - Austria (Solar Shaded)
Teen Daze - Alaska
Cuddle Formation & Emily Reo - Bermuda (Yoshi's Story)
Eaters - Finland
Headaches - Brazil
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - Yugoslavia
Megafortress & Noah Wall - India (Scorpio)
Cemeteries & Foxes in Fiction - Alberta (Siksika/Peigan/Kainai)
Gem Club - England's Countryside (Mother In Comet)
North Americans - Germany (Quinn) - Digital Only
Maria Usbeck - Mexico (una pirámide al revés) - Digital Only
Recycle Culture - Israel (Primitive) - Digital Only