Watching the US election results being returned is probably not the intended use case for “What Do You See When You Dream?”. Yet against the turbulence of the results coming in, it provides a perfect calming contrast.
One of the the most beautiful about music is the ability for it to conjure up feelings. Music that can evoke visions of a place that you may have never been, or have only ever seen pictures of. Creating a palette sonically, just as a painter would with paint. Certain textures and tricks can be used to evoke feelings and characteristics that we assign emotions to. This album as a painting would be soft and delicate, it’s a picture of clouds and stillness.
Guitarist and songwriter A.J. McQuay states in the release notes for this album: “This is an 8-song concept record of sorts, born of a challenge I issued myself to write song titles first and then compose music to fit.”
I guess the descriptions of soft and delicate make more sense now.
“What Do You See When You Dream?” is an album built around restraint. The notes that aren’t played are every bit important as the notes that are, with space and dynamics taking center stage.
In contrast to many post-rock artists, After Osmosis don’t stick to the formulaic start small, build and make louder method. Delicate passages of guitar or bass catch the attention, rather than huge distorted lead guitars.
Most of the songs on this album could easily have crescendoed into all out wall of noise style barrages – yet they don’t. The melodies are pretty, and the guitar work reminds me of one of my favourite post-rock bands Athletics.
The bass and drums are tight with the guitars. The performances controlled and the occasional flourishes (particularly on what sounds like a fretless bass) are infrequent enough to be rewarding. The use of drum samples or processing on the drums adds an extra element of depth to the tracks.
Production on the album is solid and goes unnoticed, which like a referee is when it’s at its best.
I didn’t do my usual entry point and favourite track for this album, I turned it on and let it play and wrote this while it was on. I couldn’t tell you with any certainty when one song ended and another began, but none of that matters. “What Do You See When You Dream?” is a beautifully constructed journey from start to finish. It doesn’t vye for your attention,