The shoegaze canon has been celebrated and revisited, mined and pillaged, imitated and replicated time and again. Still, with the sheer volume of pedal-stomping guitar slingers that arose during the late ’80s and ’90s in the UK, by and large most bands that aren’t Lush, My Bloody Valentine or Ride ended up fading into obscurity, as is inevitable with any brightly but quickly burning movement or scene. So don’t be surprised if the name Dreamscape isn’t one you recognize. A Bristol, UK group whose existence spanned somewhere between the blink of an eye and a heartbeat, Dreamscape released very little recorded material and, for that matter, hardly any information whatsoever. They released only one single and one EP, and recorded one other shelved EP before essentially folding into the aesthetically similar Secret Shine. That’s essentially it.
That all of Dreamscape’s material fits on a single LP is pretty convenient, actually, as, taken as a whole, it makes a solid full-length that flows and transitions fluidly, drum machine beats and gauzy guitars guiding the listener through the very thing their name describes (That name is almost too literal). Though demand for such an artifact beforehand was likely nonexistent, Kranky‘s compilation of Dreamscape’s recorded output, titled La-Di-Da Recordings is a beautiful collection, and essential for listeners whose shoegaze fix was close to running out.
There is an elegant simplicity to Dreamscape’s music, its illusory density built on nothing more than Jamie Gingell’s keyboards and drum machine beats, Scott Purnell’s gorgeously glimmering guitars, and Rebecca Rawlings’ sweetly detached vocals. It’s less akin to the overwhelmingly distorted smaze of My Bloody Valentine than the hook-laden dream-pop of Lush, and owes more to the otherworldly hypnosis of Cocteau Twins than the muscular roar of Ride. Suffice it to say, Dreampop makes very pretty music, though it manifests in strange, intriguing variations. There’s a propulsive energy to “Finally Through,” and a gothic darkness in the recurrent bell chimes of “Greater Than God.” And on lengthier tracks like “Cradle,” the group builds to a gripping climax, but do so within the narrow parameters they set for themselves, never allowing the volume to raise much, nor the noise level to intensify.
“Dreamsleep Eternal,” the longest track on the set at seven minutes, shows off Dreamscape at their least corporeal or terrestrial, sounding almost ghostly set against the perpetual thuds of their programmed drums. It’s a cool snapshot of the band’s ideas congealed into something even stronger and more challenging, as well as a frustrating sign of things that might have been. Still, it’s hard to complain about the quality of the material on La-Di-Da Recordings, in spite of how limited it is. If Dreamscape never made it past a single EP, then perhaps their legacy was never meant to ascend to the level of some of the shoegazer greats of the `90s, but the nine songs they left behind at least reveal that it wasn’t for lack of talent.
Stream: Dreamscape – “Finally Through”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.