Dreamend DreamendSo I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite
The contrast between form and background is a noble tradition that has brought us illustrious exponents like the happy-sad(ism) of Belle & Sebastian, for example. There’s one textbook example that interests us especially for this review: “John Wayne Gacy, Jr”, one of the cornerstones of Sufjan Stevens’ “Illinoise” (Spunk, 2005). At first, anyone could think it’s the ultimate love song, full of an almost liquid melancholy, drenched in feelings of tearful elevation. However, the track talks about the real case of Pogo, a man who his neighbours thought was a nice guy who dressed up as a clown at their kids’ parties but who turned out to have thirty bodies of kids and adolescents buried in his backyard. The sordidness of the background was sublimated by the beauty of the form. And that’s exactly the concept Dreamend use on “So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite” (Graveface, 2010).
Let’s go back to that commonplace of “at first”: the initial confrontation with “So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite” reminds us of the pastoral Americana with melancholic climaxes of Mojave 3, the luminous hippy-ness of Cloud Cult, the first attempts at happy rural pop of Mull Historical Society and, of course, the heavenly basslines of Sufjan Stevens when the kid puts on his multi-coloured china mask with the petrified smile and happy eyes. A closer listen to the lyrics, however, freezes the pop rush by contrast: although the surface seems happy and festive, it turns out that Ryan Graveface (frontman of Dreamend, another parallel project to the band Black Moth Super Rainbow) chooses to deliver a literary and conceptual album that tells the tale of a serial killer in the first person. It’s been done before many times, yes, and sometimes (like the aforementioned “John Wayne Gacy, Jr”) even sublimely so. But that doesn’t stop “So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite” from standing out as a vehicle of a simple but effective duality: enjoyable on an either purely musical or lyrical level, like a sandwich that tastes both bitter and sweet. Schizophrenia, they call it.
It’s also surprising that, after delivering a few albums in a post-rock vein, Dreamend have this time chosen to preserve the progressive but from a, sonically speaking, much folkier point of view. A wise decision, if Graveface wanted the life and work of this killer to unfold with the soft rustle of lovers laying a mantle on the field for a picnic: if they had held on to the apocalyptic showers of post-rock, we would have reiteration instead of contrast. In fact, the only time “So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite” allows itself to leave its perturbed interior out in the open is on the track in the middle of the album: “A Though”, a moment of emotional confusion during which the surface is disturbed by insane buzzing and the lyrics repeat the mantra “I cannot stop in the middle.” The pretension of the art, whether it be musical or murderous, implies a “’till the end” with all it consequences. And Dreamend know what they want, even though this is only the first stab in a beautiful corpse that can take them further, if they insist in using the art of the song as their weapon of choice.
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