It's a reconciliation that expresses itself in a number of ways on Mayville Dream, most notably the sweeping array of acoustic instrumentation on just about every track. As the longtime drummer for Tiger Hatchery, Billington is an absolute fiend for percussion; in addition to traditional drum kit, he uses bongos, shakers, bells, tambourine and even kitchenware. Yet he's also a versatile enough musician to be capable of adding upright piano, flute, voice and tabla.
One of Mayville Dream's most arresting showcases for Billington's vision (as well as his musicianship) is "As High Above The Lightning," whose amalgam of passionately swelling synths, frenetic electric-piano and chorus of cries and moans feels very much haunted by mid-'60s spirit jazz. Equally potent is "Only Escape." Falling somewhere between muted and somber, it weaves together electro-acoustic manipulation and ghostly chimes that wouldn't sound out of place on the Art Ensemble of Chicago's early masterworks for the Nessa label. The same can be said of "Night Bats," but rather than chimes, it's flute that supplies much of the tune's haunting flavor.
Contrasting nicely with the aforementioned cuts are playful opener "The Many Roads Towards Mayville" and "Institute's Innards," both of which find Billington harnessing the jazzier elements of his style in service of art-rock deconstruction. The results are cosmically rippling vibrations and trippy ear-play that actually recall vintage Todd Rundgren (whose two most outré forays into synthesizer-laced pop, A Wizard, A True Star and Todd, have become quirky cult favorites in the realm of experimental electronic music lately).
Maybe part of the reason this record is such a refreshing listen is that avant-garde musicians interested in fusing jazz, rock and electronics are something of a rare breed these days. Outside of Ben Vida's criminally short-lived Bird Show Band ensemble, as well as Ed Wilcox and synthesist Charles Cohen's free-improv duo, there simply aren't a whole lot of names out there blowing minds in this particular vein. But even if the opposite were true, Mayville Dream would still stand out, because the bulk of its charm ultimately rests on Billington's ability to create music that is personal, unique and really quite soulful.