Review: Evan Caminiti – Dreamless Sleep

(LP & CD, Thrill Jockey, 2012)

Half of guitar-wielding monk duo Barn Owl (the other guitar-wielding monk duo), Evan Caminiti explores the darker, more melancholic end of the drone spectrum, crafting sprawling, impressionistic guitar-based sound. While the music of his bandmade Jon Porras can be described in basically the same terms, Caminiti seems to have a more hi-fi approach to sound. And whereas’ last year’s “Pacific Fog Dreams”, released by Porras under his Higuma moniker was steeped in abrasive ambience and lo-fi fuzz, on “Dreamless Sleep” Caminiti goes crystalline in both quality and the choice of instruments: the new album makes use of synthesizers and electronic experimentation, as well as droning, spacious guitars.

Different approaches to the theme of dreams is what appears to be the common idea behind both musicians’ albums: whereas the title of Higuma album indicated dreams to be the central point of all tracks and the source of inspiration, on “Dreamless Sleep”, the dreams are pushed away and replaced in favor of refreshing sleep and a clear mind the next morning – feeling of awareness, not being boggled by the blurry, surreal visions at night. Dreams attract interpretation, analysis. It seems that by naming his album “Dreamless Sleep” Caminiti refuses attempts at interpretation, attempts at attaching meaning. “It just is what it is”, it seems to say. A series of slowly rolling, spacious ambient songs, intended to put the listener in meditative state or help them fall asleep.

While still using stretched, often abrasive guitar notes as the main building material, Caminiti expands beyond the usual Barn Owl “shamanic desert strumming” type of technique into the more ethereal, classic ambient influenced approach. While the opening “Leaving the Island” might bear some residue of BO’s slowly rolling mesa style, the following “Bright Midnight” features a feedback-laden, delayed solo which will definitely remind the listener of Fripp and Eno’s “No Pussyfooting”. Occassionally Caminiti will dabble with more electronic synthesis and go into glitchy areas, like certain fragments of “Symmetry” or “Becoming Pure Light” with delicate, fractured textures which indicate some fleeting, distant infatuation with Christian Fennesz or Tim Hecker.

“Dreamless Sleep” is a step forward in Evan Caminiti’s career, a step towards the more carefully thought out, meticulously composed variety of drone/ambient music, which does not rely on heavy, monolithic guitar drones as much as an enveloping wall of sound slowly turning itself into a more electronic/post-rock direction. And that ain’t a bad thing either.

Buy “Dreamless Sleep” from Thrill Jockey

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