My father was a big theater buff. He acted in stage plays and watched many more. When I began doing some theater I discovered what stage fright was, and spoke to my Dad about it. His words of advice were, whatever else happens, always open strong and end strong. He held that people would pretty quickly forget any mistakes as long as the first and last thing they experienced was great. I don’t think Dream the Electric Sleep ever spoke to my Dad, but they certainly took his advice.
The opening and closing tracks of Beneath the Dark Wide Sky are particularly appealing and very well done. The building of layers in “Drift’s” intro culminate in a solid rock and roll vocal that could easily become a hit, although perhaps a touch long for that, clocking in at a little over five minutes. The relentless bass line is simple, but compelling, an ostinato acting as a riff. The album ends with “Black Wind,” a suitably heavy piece with forceful drumming which segues into “All Good Things.” This final track features a lovely instrumental devolution, trailing off into that gentle good night, leaving the impression that somehow, all is right with the world.
In listening repeatedly to Beneath the Dark Wide Sky I did not find what I would call a “concept” exactly. More a theme. Going through the album track by track I felt as if I were on an overnight road trip and each track represented a different phase of the night. From the opener “Drift,” evocative of twilight horizons, through “Hanging by Time,” “The Good Night Sky” and ending with “All Good Things” (which, of course, must come to an end), the album invokes images of time passing and mostly night time imagery.
Other highlights of this album are the instrumental “We Who Blackout the Sun”, whose introduction features an interesting use of compound rhythms in 8: Two 4s, followed by a 3 + 5. That’s just fun. This piece is followed by “Hanging by Time,” which is in a steady 7/4. It is a testament to both the writing of the melody and to the drumming that this fact does not leap out at the listener. “The Good Night Sky” is a catchy bit of ear candy, somewhat reminiscent of Panic at the Disco, but with a lot more punch.
The musicianship is solid and the band is together and tight. While the music taken as a whole seems pretty traditionally rock, there are in fact a lot of complex time signatures. However, it is all done so smoothly that one barely notices those things unless specifically looking for it. I am not a drummer, but I think this one is particularly impressive, having an excellent feel for the music and understanding how to either drive or enhance it. The guitarist is a fine player—solid, but not flashy. And the songwriting was obviously geared towards the band’s strengths, which is always a smart move.
This album is the band’s third, but the first commercially produced. They bring some experience to this project, with the freshness of a new discovery. Dream the Electric Sleep is worth keeping an eye on, as they have potential to become a really great band. Beneath the Dark Wide Sky will appeal to fans of hard rock, but also to proggers, who will appreciate the subtle complexities of Dream the Electric Sleep’s writing.
One final word. I admit it: I really wanted this band to be called Dream the Electric Sheep. I thought it was called Dream the Electric Sheep, until the third or fourth time I read it. But no. It’s Dream the Electric Sleep. I guess that’s not really a problem for me, but I was ready to geek out and watch Bladerunner with the sound turned off to this album. Hey, guys, do you like sci-fi?