CANT – Dreams Come True (2011)
by Jay Platt
Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor debuts his new solo project, CANT, with the full-length Dreams Come True. Featuring frequent collaborator and post-punk revivalist Twin Shadow (George Lewis Jr.), it is a more electronic-oriented and sensually layered release than Grizzly Bear efforts. Despite this, both projects deliver crisp production and engaging layers of melodies that combine for a memorably haunting effect.
When I heard Taylor was releasing an album, I expected it to be similar to Grizzly Bear’s breakthrough Veckatimest. This is clearly not the case. On first listen, I didn’t think much of the album at all. It was too dense and didn’t meet my stylistic expectations. However, many opportunities for exploration open up after the first few listens. The opening “Too Late Too Far” begins with a hectic electronic drum beat, much like the beginning of Radiohead’s “15 Step”. Once enough time has passed for the chaotic rhythm to settle in, a repetitive bass-line starts, closely followed by the caressing vocals. The harmonies and melodies in this song are a little basic, but the complex rhythm and intricate sound effects maintain a level of interest. After a refreshing reverb-filled breakdown, the now-comforting rhythm starts again with a vocal line buried under the mix, like an eerie sample. Here, the voice is used more as an instrument than to traditionally maintain interest with a melody.
The second track, “Believe” is much mellower, providing excellent contrast to “Too Late Too Far” in several capacities. The spacey alternating panning effect of the slowly rolling drum beat is quite interesting, adding itself to the detailed shimmering background noises. The words “you won’t believe” are sung in beautiful harmony, giving the song a very relaxed feel. It is a perfect setup for the next track. The muted trumpet riff in “The Edge”, combined with the delicate drum beat, makes for what initially sounds like a soul song. Things soon get back to normal when the layered vocal line starts, accompanied by a distorted synthesiser playing a complimenting riff. This is my favorite track on the album; it’s constantly changing and feels much more personal than the rest of the record. The peaceful guitar, gentle voice, and dreamy synth makes track four, “BANG”, sound like a Beach House song; perhaps they influenced Chris Taylor when they supported Grizzly Bear on their 2010 tour. This marks the end of the first half of the album, and after a short piano-driven instrumental breather, the electric sounds of CANT resume.
“She Found a Way Out” begins with sparse texture, but they gradually add layers that steadily build up. Still, it never quite reaches a climax before fading out in pulsating synth waves. The track’s ambiance is quite comforting. At ease in a different sense is “Answer”, which resembles Four Tet with its strong electronic beat, chopped up vocals and catchy recurring melody. Then arrives the title track, which is extremely dark with plenty of distorted sound effects and striking synth notes. Its nightmare-ish, ominous presence is one that should resonate with most listeners. The penultimate track begins in the same dark way, but finishes with a much more melodic and soulful piano and vocal solo. This is a small taste of the album closer, “Bericht”. The apt choice to make it the closer is solidified once Taylor’s voice joins the lonely piano. “And it’s all come down to this” he sings, carrying the calming lull of the song on his shoulders.
The album certainly makes an interesting listen, and is by no means a step backwards for Chris Taylor. Throughout the album, he utilizes several production techniques that would not be found on a Grizzly Bear release. The sample-like vocals and intricate sound effects show that he is not only a musician, but also a very talented producer with extreme attention to detail. Grizzly Bear fans knew that already, but Dreams Come True proves even to the most attentive fans that Taylor can successfully pursue styles that are well out of Grizzly Bear’s comfort zone. Taylor’s bright future extends beyond his role in a notable indie-rock group. His skills as a producer will likely extend his list of collaborators rapidly as his talents and accomplices grow.