Despite many a shoegaze hallmark, Dream Maps is a far cry from any My Bloody Valentine impersonators you may have heard recently.
The solo project of local musician Dominic Simpson, Dream Maps’ debut album, In Stormy Nights, is based around samples from the enigmatic radio station UVB-76, often referred to as ‘The Buzzer’. Since 1982 the station has broadcast a perpetually recurring buzz tone, occasionally intruded upon by ambiguous Russian voice transmissions.
This is a dynamic that features heavily throughout, from the Russophone syllables spoken in the opening moments, to the tinnitus-inducing crackle and hum of final track ‘100 Bars In C Minor/UVB-76’.
The ponderous ‘London’s Burning’ leaves drone and vocal barely distinguishable. It’s certainly the most mainstream track on the album, almost reminiscent of an Anton Newcombe original.
The ‘In Stormy Nights’ triptych captures a cross-section of keening feedback, hissing vocals and subaquatic echoes, piano fragments and sepulchral chanting, bridging the gap between spaced-out guitar rock and experimental electronics.
The record takes an abstract interlude on ‘Train Tracks’ and ‘To The Birds’, whose sparse, drone-heavy melees are overlaid with snatches of instrumental and found sounds, moments of which call to mind something of Fripp & Eno.
Whilst the transition from ‘To The Birds’ into ‘Gakken Analogue Book’ is a sharp and not immediately pleasing contrast – from ambient drone back into tripped-out shoegaze – the displeasure is short-lived as the latter proves to be one of the album’s most insatiable tracks. With an instrumental constructed over an acid-house beat, Simpson’s vocals emerge from between the presets, delivering the lyrics with a lingering snarl.
At 14 and a half minutes long, ‘Static On The Wire’ is more a suite than a song, swelling from intricate guitar lines into a cavalcade of modulated noise that drifts in and out of focus, enveloping and isolating like an outtake from Tim Hecker’s Norberg.
With a sound that sits at the Y-junction between shoegaze, ambient and industrial, In Stormy Nights is an ambitious first record. Through 12 dense, challenging but undeniably affecting tracks, Simpson has built a paean to UVB-76’s cryptic radio broadcasts.
Mirroring the experience of capturing an alien voice through the buzz, the erratic transmission of Simpson’s vocals materialises unexpectedly from droning interludes, giving them a rather discombobulating characteristic of being anticipated yet never fully expected, like a figure appearing through fog.
Listen to Dream Maps at dreammaps1.bandcamp.com/releases