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Richard James Simpson - Deep Dream

  by Adrian Janes

published: 6 / 8 / 2019

Richard James Simpson - Deep Dream
Label: Rehlein Music
Format: CD


Second solo album from American musician Richard James Simpson who mixes soundscapes with energetic rock but rarely unites them

More sonic nightmare than dream, this second album from Richard James Simpson (following 2017’s ‘Sweet Birds of Youth ‘) is a strange mixture of orthodox rock and what could be jagged fragments from the soundtrack to a David Lynch dystopia. Some tracks, such as the oppressive electronic crunch and blinding white noise of ‘My Psychedelic Mother’, abandon all claim to music and become noise rock minus the rock (Perhaps the ultimate recommendation for certain refined tastes). On others (e.g. the hints of string synth on ‘ON2U’, the breakbeat slashed by violent guitar of ‘Half Brother, Half Clouds’, or the moody bassline and wordless chant of ‘Know’) there are suggestions of something more recognisably melodic and rhythmic in the midst of random spurts of distorted sound. It’s arguable whether these seek to represent a struggling flicker of inspiration or its last guttering sparks. The latter seems more likely, given the album’s general atmosphere and the sheer brevity of many of these textural experiments. Somewhere in between these pieces and the handful of conventionally shaped songs lies ‘Pieces of You’, wherein Simpson intimately croons until nagging synths and loops all but overwhelm him, like Frank Sinatra jamming with Throbbing Gristle. Simpson’s musical roots lie in mid-90s grunge-linked trio Teardrain, with the tracks ‘Couldn’t Be Happier’ and ‘Job’ modishly credited as ‘featuring’ the band in which former Hole bassist Jill Emery and drummer Mark Reback (Vast Asteroid) reunite with Simpson. Emery is also the co-writer of a couple of the more outré tracks. While ‘Couldn’t Be Happier’, in its combination of slow bass and drums with muffled voice and doom-laden loops still leans towards the experimental, ‘Job’ switches slickly between shimmering guitar backing a plaintive voice and a gloriously dirty, powerful riff. Ultimately it’s simply accomplished hard rock, but it has a real visceral impact that is instinctively far more satisfying than the avant-garde efforts here. The twin pulls Simpson seems to feel between being a “sonic painter” and a rocker are reminiscent of the divergent influences David Bowie tried to reconcile. ‘Sugar Blue Inn’, the album’s most successful song, has a chugging electronic rhythm, fierce guitar and brief singing, in miniature evoking the Bowie of ‘Low’ and ‘Scary Monsters’ who so strikingly took rock into new areas while not losing its physical power. The other rock songs are never played with anything less than skilled commitment but don’t have the simultaneous adventurous edge of ‘Sugar Blue Inn’. If Simpson can more often unite his contradictory inclinations, as in this song, he could come up with a special record. As it is, ‘Deep Dream’ feels like a split album, except instead of being shared between two bands it’s shared between two sides of one personality.

Track Listing:-
1 Dream 1
2 On2u
3 Know
4 Ice on Your Lips
5 Mary Shoots 'em First
6 Free
7 Half Brother, Half Clouds
8 I Couldn't Be Happier
9 Job
10 My Psychedelic Mother
11 The Giver
12 Pieces of You
13 Sugar Blue Inn
14 Primrose Bob
15 The Walls Have Ears
16 Human (Like I Versus Like Me)
17 Cell

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