Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bill Holt-Dreamies (1973)

"Inspired by the aural collage of the Beatles' "Revolution Number 9," as well as the musique concrete of composers such as John Cage and Terry Riley and Bob Dylan's conscientious rock lyricism, Bill Holt quit his straight job in 1972 to follow his musical muse, hoarding various electronic gadgets and an acoustic guitar and holing up in his basement. He emerged a year later with Dreamies, one of the finest pieces of experimental pop from the era. Unlike the Beatles' White Album collage, though, the pair of sidelong, 26-minute epics -- "Program Ten" and "Program Eleven" (as if progressing directly from "Revolution Number 9") -- that Holt created were much more than symbolic representations of the chaotic times. At its heart, the album is a blend of folk and pop/rock, and in many respects, Dreamies fits in with the singer/songwriter scene that flowered in the early '70s. Instead of relying simply on the juxtapositions of his sound samples to impart subjective meanings, Holt composed lovely, downhearted melodies (very much recalling John Lennon) and trippy lyrics as a jumping-off point for each collage and then let acoustic guitar guide them through the gauntlet of sound. In fact, "Program Ten" is a combination of two identifiable songs, "Sunday Morning Song" and "The User," the two melodies weaving in and out of the cacophony of noise-crickets, atmospheric sounds, a John Kennedy speech, NASA chatter, news reports, glass breaking, a thunderstorm, sports broadcasts, and gunfire while a synthesizer spits out spacey alien sounds or cuts like a kettle whistle, and an ominous bassline oscillates beneath it all. "Program Eleven" exchanges that white noise for airport sounds, creepy Sgt. Pepper-style chants that bubble up from beneath the single melody fragment ("Going for a Ride"), game show catch phrases, and popping corn. Of the two pieces, "Program Ten" is the more socially charged commentary, setting the innocent recollections of youth -- the sounds of summer and nature -- against the misanthropic confusion of war and politics to powerful effect. "Program Eleven" is more psychedelically eerie and haunting, aurally dense, and thick with bad vibes, but wonderful nonetheless. The spoken samples are mostly more buried in the background and difficult to make out. It adds both intrigue and mystery to the piece, a foreboding end to what began optimistically. The music, in other words, ingeniously mirrored the sort of evolution of consciousness that was so much a part of the era. Dreamies went virtually unheard when it was released, perhaps because it was the antithesis of commercial rock at the time, but, despite its grounding in the ambiance and issues of the '60s, it still sounds outstanding decades after the fact." - Allmusic

A wonderful piece of music. Found a section of Program 10 on Beyond The Wizards' Sleeve "Ark 1" and had to track this down. One of the earliest examples of sampling in modern music as well. Another highly recommended album.


1 comment:

the saucer people said...

This sounds fascinating; any music used for sonic appropriations by Beyond The Wizards Sleeve has to be worth a listen..which track on Ark1 utilises Bill Holt? Speaking of BTWS, well one half of them anyway, I highly recommend the new Time & Space Machine album though I have a feeling you and your readers are no doubt onto it already ;)