Dreamend is the solo project of Ryan Graveface, bassist/guitarist with Pennsylvania’s electro-synth astronauts Black Moth Super Rainbow. The Pennsylvania five-piece increasingly appear to be a latter-day Animal Collective given the number of solo and spin-off projects using their adopted monikers - Tobacco, The Seven Fields Of Aphelion, Father Hummingbird and Iffernaut. Graveface has released all his Dreamend solo albums on his own Graveface Records and now his fifth “So I Ate Myself, Bite by Bite” receives a UK release courtesy of Memphis Industries.
Here the laptops and sequencers of BMSR are dropped for antique banjo, piano and chimes. Listen to songs like ‘Where You Belong’ or ‘My Brittle Bones’ in isolation and you hear lo-fi dreamy psyche-folk, full of frail sing-song melodies. This banjo-driven backwoods music is shuffling, winsome and even jolly – ‘Magnesium Light’ sounds like a one-man band busker taking on the sunny optimism of The Polyphonic Spree, ‘Where You Belong’ features cheery whistling and the album kicks off with the floaty, meditative instrumental prelude ‘Pink Cloud In A Wood. But there’s something dark lurking in the woods.
The intense, echoing banjo of short instrumental ‘Interlude’ jars discordantly against the ears. It is followed by ‘Repent’ with slow, doom-laden sleigh bells and whispered, repeated pleas to “trust in me / that I will change” that become just plain spooky. This all leads to ‘Pieces’ and the dark heart of the album is revealed. In the most tuneful and cheery tones the song confesses: “I can’t believe it was just yesterday / I cleaned my hands and washed the blood away”. Yes “So I Ate Myself, Bite by Bite” turns about to be a themed piece, a single narrative in the central character kills and dismembers their lover. In track seven.
In the same way the narrator is more surprised at the passing of the time than the murderous act itself, so the album continues with little sense of remorse, outrage or conclusion on the surface. ‘My Brittle Bones’ sings of being haunted by the lover’s ghost and the ten minute closer ‘An Admission’ finishes in instrumental maelstrom but overall the songs are not the outpourings of a tortured psyche, rather a jaunty and amoral stroll through the woods. Like a bucolic Elephant 6 collective take on murder ballads or “Deserter’s Songs”- era Mercury Rev relocating “American Psycho” to the rural retreats of upstate New York, this is a fine piece of astral Americana. Just one that occasionally looks into the dark at the bottom of the well.
I haven't seen the physical LP of "So I Ate Myself, Bite by Bite" myself yet but it is "presented like a phenakistoscope, a classic Victorian animation machine... [featuring] William Schaff's painstaking, brilliantly delivered design. It's truly a remarkable accomplishment in the annals of the Album as Artform, which is a hallmark of Graveface Records". Who have of course made a video to show it off.
So I Ate Myself, Bite by Bite [BUY or BUY]