April is the season for album releases, it seems; several have made their debut on Bandcamp (with parts or the entireties thereof being offered on Soundcloud by way of publicity), and one of them, a quadripartite EP that’s been well-assembled mainly from existing tracks, is Adam Cuthbért’s: united in this album, the separate pieces, polished for the occasion, seem as though they were made to be brought together in just this way, in precisely this thirty minute, thirty second-long aural succession.
It’s entitled Dream World, and if this music “does” anything at all, it can be said to explore the nature of the relations of which a number of dream states, some on the more lucid side, others more oneiric, are composed – the synapses that have been relaxed or unlatched such that impressions and ideas in accordance with the objective order without, no longer are transmitted into the mind nor, once there, circulate with all due speed. How the quasi-muscular exertions to which particular mental operations, usually so well co-ordinated with each other in the waking state (that is their common raison d’être in daily life, after all), each contribute in some measure, can be halted, extend along other axes, or even set out in a reverse direction, is one of the things these tracks are concerned to place before our ears. For, most often in dream states all coherence is not gone, that fabric of intra-mental relations hasn’t been torn apart entirely. What happens instead is that the linkages are stretched out: and if one’s inclined at all to accept that by this sounds might be emitted (whether within the dream, or in some other, but likewise virtual manner), then it would not be mistaken to observe that it’s these which populate Cuthbért’s compositions: so in several of the sequences which recur characteristically throughout the course of the EP, what one can hear are the unclenchings of the mind while it is dreaming.
And indeed, how calm this music remains from beginning to end; while the disturbances in dreams are not entirely absent from it – from time to time one feels a certain sense of panic rearing up – the mind’s composure doesn’t once really falter: its inner coherence is loosened, not turned inside-out to expose things that never were meant to be seen or heard, and Cuthbért’s music in registering this relaxation does not turn away from beauty. Those who want a dream-music that’s out of joint, severely déréglé, “ver-rückt” (as Martin Heidegger or Prof. Dr. Baum in Fritz Lang’s Testament des Doktor Mabuse would say) and whose interest lies in its outbursts of strangeness, must seek it elsewhere.
Yet one might perhaps notice a peculiar inversion that’s brought about in the relation between a listener’s perception and memory. Much more than in most music (how much more is an interesting question), in the case of this EP the music can call to mind certain aural memories from which new perceptions fill one’s ears, whereas usually it’s with memories that the acoustic experience as a sequence of perceptions either ends or is terminated, as the case may be.
On an earlier occasion I spoke briefly about “夢世界 Dream World” (and also, on another, about Cuthbért’s collaboration with Daniel Rhode, “Dropbox Bass Drop”) and I won’t reprise those remarks. Instead I should merely like to note that, listening to the former piece now again, at around the 2:17 and 2:27 marks there was something about the timbre of the trumpet – wielded by Cuthbért himself – which called a particular sonic memory to mind, namely the feeling elicited by the “Love Theme” in Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the film Chinatown, and specifically the manner in which Uan Rasey’s trumpet challenges the rest of that music; subsequently Cuthbért’s entire piece unfolded this time in a somewhat new way, the overture – which is what it now revealed itself as being, all at once akin to the opening of a piece of music for the cinema – began to resound with its labored breathing and something like an echo of soles striking the pavement, as though someone were running away, perhaps to evade something: as though in flight on foot from a pursuer and assessing the terrain at night in terms of the imperative need to take cover (which is an attitude vastly different than the deliberate or involuntary disorientation I mentioned before). In the ears of these and other perceptions born of an acoustic memory, a few other moments then stood out from the whole, while also at the same time underscoring its evident filiation to Goldsmith’s work, notably John Schuster-Craig’s impressive low piano notes at 2:41 and soon thereafter the plaintive sequence of five notes on Cuthbért’s trumpet at 2:47, answered immediately at 2:51 by the pianist and developed into a very moving passage through 3:44, when it was resumed again by the trumpet for a bit more than ten seconds, and then carried by both of them together to a close, at around 4:27, with the striking of a single high note on the piano: thus these crucial moments brought back the unease in that “Love Theme” (which is of course well-known but perhaps deserves to be fathomed better than it has been) in the form of a permutation.
Now, to perceive the relation between the two pieces of music, ears that had been opened oneirically to the mind’s own musical memories were probably required.
All this well exemplifies a disposition of listening that’s become stronger by being loosened up as it moves from track to track, a disposition which then affords the listener a more acute sense of the arrangement of the album’s acoustic environment as space, or as a set of spaces – in the full four dimensions of the term: to be sure, time does not get passed over by this music. The anxious feeling raised to perceptibility by memory while listening to “Yumesekai (Taiga)” (as he’s now renamed “夢世界 Dream World”), isn’t so much espoused as it is counterbalanced or even in some degree neutralized by his music; and this instance is representative of much that transpires over the course of the EP.
The album as a whole, perhaps just because it is so well-measured, not being cut too short nor going beyond a due length, has time enough to dispense; and so, however long its four rooms may have been built to last, listeners can find some piece of shelter in the “dream world” of Cuthbért’s calm music.
Postscript. As the album is no longer available on Cuthbért’s Soundcloud page, here it is in lieu thereof from his page on Bandcamp.