Discovering a Long Forgotten Friend in Dreamend
For a music lover, the perks of running a record label are plentiful. Discovering new artists, making a variety of connections in the industry, and – most rewardingly – the feeling of breaking out something new and worthwhile are all present if one can get a label successfully underway. In a sense, I suppose one could compare the benefits to those of forming a music publication, though it is arguable that running a label consists of a more hands-on approach. One similar aspect of both professions, though, is that is hard to succeed in either if one does not have a genuine love for music. A genuine love for an art can also result in several attempts to produce something within the field, as prolonged admiration often transforms into a stronger form of expression where the devotee seeks to try their hand at manufacturing quality within the respective artistic niche. After all, it is difficult to truly appreciate an art until discovering the obstacles involved in creating something respectable within it. That being said, it should not be at all surprising when hearing that a founder of a record label, music publication, or even a music blog has a musical background of some sort. Many of them have shifted into covering music after finding the creation of music not to their natural ability, but others may appear just as talented enough to be on the roster of a record label or featured in a music publication regardless of their affiliation.
The Chicago-based label Graveface Records is perhaps most well known for casting a variety of notable experimental rock artists like Black Moth Super Rainbow, The Appleseed Cast, and Monster Movie, though the label’s owner and sole employee, Ryan Graveface, has proven to be an inventive proprietor in his own right by adding his personal project to the mix. Since the formation of Graveface Records in 2002, he has produced and released music under the alias of Dreamend. Not surprisingly, all of Dreamend’s releases have been put out by Graveface Records. While Ryan Graveface’s intentions were always rooted in forming a successful record label that exposed inventively captivating artists, it was by no coincidence that the sound of Dreamend tends to coincide well with an emphasis on experimental-rock, shoegaze, and dream-pop that consists of the bulk of Graveface Records’ catalog. The label was clearly designed to feature this approach from the moment it was created, with Graveface’s own music providing for an enjoyable indication of the label’s stylistic direction ever since the 2002 release of a split EP consisting of tracks by Dreamend and Monster Movie, which featured Christian Savill (former guitarist of Slowdive); the split was entitled Preface. After forming relationships with many surveyors of the genre, artists like Black Moth Super Rainbow (Ryan Graveface serves as their occasional guitarist) and The Appleseed Cast began to join the team and Graveface Records was well underway.
After releasing two albums, As If by Ghosts… and Maybe We’re Making God Sad and Lonely, in 2004 and 2005, respectively, Ryan Graveface began work on his third full-length under the name of Dreamend. Like Dreamend’s previous two releases, it features a cast of well-rehearsed musicians who are specialized in the craft of experimental-rock. This time around, it includes multi-instrumentalist Toto Miranda of experimental electronica group The Octopus Project and Darren Jackson, the guitarist and vocalist for Graveface Records labelmate Kid Dakota. While Dreamend’s previous two releases focused highly on an atmospherically sprawling form of post-rock that brought forth comparisons to Explosions in the Sky, Ryan Graveface’s newest effort, The Long Forgotten Friend, proves to be Dreamend’s most stylistically eclectic yet. Each successive album by Dreamend has been seemingly more ambitious, but The Long Forgotten Friend maintains a lucid focus while still delivering experimentally unpredictable performances, melodies, and structures that captivate the listener from start to finish. One of the standouts, “If Only for a Day”, is a beautiful mixture of dream-pop, shoegaze, and post-rock that serves as my favorite on the album for its pure atmospheric bliss. Audible atmosphere is an skill that Dreamend have always proved capable of, but never before have they truly maximized their potential to fully satisfy fans. However, on “If Only for a Day” and throughout the bulk of The Long Forgotten Friend, they appear to have practically mastered this delicate art within an art.
While “If Only for a Day” stands at over six minutes with plenty of repetition, but it is so expertly crafted that not one moment represents even a slight indication of structural compromise. With a slight touch of psyche-rock minimalism due to the gradual expansion of the melodic content, the track features a repeating progression of keys and guitars that are gradually complemented by Graveface’s soothing, reverb-soaked vocals. A backing acoustical guitar plays a very hypnotic arpeggio, while an electric guitar employs a series of masterful slides at the end of each measure to signify a chordal transition in the piano’s melody. The constantly energetic spur of the percussion causes the track to feel ceaselessly active, an atypical feature of psychedelic-rock’s infusion that Dreamend pulls off exceptionally. The Grammy-nominated John Congleton, who has produced efforts by practically everyone from Modest Mouse to U2, contributes to the atmospheric brilliance of “If Only for a Day” with his production in addition to his exceptional work on “Are You Waking” and “Your Kiss”.
“Your Kiss” is an extremely fascinating example of electro-acoustic leanings, with an incorporation of crackling distortion and eerie synths over the evolving accompaniment of a folky acoustic guitar, while the persistently evolving “Are You Waking” sees Graveface’s nasally vocals appear reminiscent of Billy Corgan over an instrumental display that goes from lushly captivating to aggressively infectious. Upon first listen, it may appear as one of the simpler and instrumentally barren tracks on the album, but repeated listens will reveal intricacies in the backing instrumentation that prove wildly successful. The eruptive use of brass and the uplifting emotion in Graveface’s voice during the track’s final few minutes establishes a stellar hook, one that concludes the song with a passion and fury that could very well serve as a summation for entire album’s impressive ability to be emotionally expressive through collaborative vocal and instrumental accompaniments that boast surprises around nearly every corner. With a handful of dazzlingly executed tracks like “If Only for a Day”, “Your Kiss”, and “Are You Waking”, The Long Forgotten Friend is undoubtedly Dreamend’s best effort yet and serves as another fine addition to the frontman’s record label.