Songs to Sleep Next To (Self-Released, 06.2010)
For: Early-Animal Collective, Brian Eno, Wolfgang Voigt
Byline: How exactly do you approach an album tagged "haiku-ambient" or "collage-ambient"?
One thing I have learned about Dth, the New Orleans native most noted for his Books-like collage recordings, is that he is all about the exposition. Dth's albums thus far have been been packed to the gills with other, non-musical, considerations in order to make the album a listening experience, rather than a disposable piece of musical ephemera. For example, with every digital file comes a one-sheet with a haiku written for each track, as well as some crude pen-drawings designed as a kind of guide through the album. But when taken on terms of pure musicality Dth succeeds magnificently here even more so than on I Hope I Can Feel Something Like That reviewed here at the TOME only a few short months ago. Although in close proximity to IHICFSLT, Songs to Sleep Next To is miles away musically and thematically. Dth carved a nice niche for himself in musicality, garnering overwhelmingly positive reviews for his remixological audio collages, as well as suturing this nicely to a tangible theme of memory and loss. Songs to Sleep Next To tackles trickier terrain. Songs, if I am interpreting the title right and the lucid, ambient tracks correctly, is about dreams, or dreaming, or that wonderful place when you are between them. Or at least the music lends itself to that interpretation. Shying away from putting his pre-recorded audio samples in the forefront, Songs starts with "Pruny Hands Felt Health" and "You Are in the Grass" which features the atonal strumming and airy, pitch-shifted vocals that made Sung Tongs such a delightful record. This sets the stage for the rest of the album, tones fluctuate from keyed-up weirdness to an amazingly deep low end. "Honesty is God" is a collaboration with another TOME fav. Chris Rehm whose album Salivary Stones was rightfully touted as a game changing 2010 album. Things don't really get better than this. Rehm's washes of white noise are filtered through Dth's percussive editing sensibility and chopped into a percussive instrument while Dth fills in the gaps with a variety of strange electronic bat-swoops and dives. When Dth uses the recorded voice, he slips them into his compositions without location. Voices swirl in and out of a dreamscape laced with subconscious memories and overheard conversations. This is a step back from IHICFSLTS, but a huge leap forward in letting his compositions speak for themselves. The album closer "Staring Games" is unbelievably good, falling somewhere between an understated Peter Broderick sort of strummer and a shuffling, muttering sort of Phil Elvrum. While probably wary of hearing his own voice so naked and stark on tape, the track is nonetheless a career high point for Dth, a true act of honesty and fearlessness. Fortunately, it completely hits its mark.