It doesn't always work, but at its best Dream House shows Âme's substantial emotional pull.
Free from the constraints of the dance floor, the aim was to present their dreamlike sound within a home-listening framework. But Dream House, which took three years to make, is no downtempo record. It spans house, techno, electronica, Krautrock and pop, all genres that fans of the duo will recognise as the longstanding bedrock of their music. There is no standout hit—no "Rej" for 2018—though it's easy to imagine most of the 11 tracks soundtracking, say, sunset at one of Innervisions' Lost In A Moment parties. As anyone who's seen Âme DJ or play live will know, their sets unfurl slowly and are packed with emotion, creating a transportive effect for patient and dedicated audiences. Dream House, for the most part, achieves something similar.
The best example of this is the opening track and first single, "The Line." Matthew Herbert, one of four vocalists on the LP, is easily the most convincing, his poetic lyrics and vigorous delivery the perfect contrast to the woody flourishes and beatless, bassy swell below. It's a magnificent opener, epic and ambitious without going overboard—a description you could apply to the best Âme tracks ("Rej," "Hydrolic Dog," "Doldrums"). Not all the vocal cuts manage this. "Blind Eye," a slice of upbeat pop complete with hooks and choruses, is ruined by Planningtorock's gaudy Auto-Tune. The pastel shades of "Give Me Your Ghost," featuring the US singer-songwriter Jens Kuross, are easier on the ears, though it's every bit as soppy as the last track he and Wiedemann worked on together, "Howling." (Kuross contributed backing vocals on the 2012 smash.)
The only non-vocal cameo is from the German experimental veteran Hans-Joachim Roedelius, whose guitar-flecked contribution, "Deadlocked," is one of six sprawling slow-burners that make up the album's strongest work. In each case, the tracks grow from the ground up, starting with bits of dusty percussion ("Futuro Antico") or a faraway synth ("Helliconia") before gradually, element by element, becoming rich, Technicolor tapestries. After a few listens, the slow build creeps under your skin and into your brain, where, as with "Deadlocked" or "No War," it might stay for several days. The latter is particularly good, its woody drums, choral cries and humid chords landing somewhere between John Roberts and Forest Swords. Like a great Âme set, the power of these tracks is in the gentle ebb and flow of tension, capped off, eventually, with a hefty emotional release.
As Resident Advisor's Will Lynch said in his Innervisions feature from 2015, the music released by the powerhouse label isn't for everyone. For many, myself included, it sits right at the edge between striking and overly sentimental. One release will blow your mind; the next might make you wince. As the crew's main production engine, this applies to Âme—for every "Rej," there's a "Blind Eye." Dream House, then, is a mixed bag. But like with everything Âme and Innervisions put their name to, from the label to the performances to the Lost In A Moment parties, the good outweighs the bad.
Wed / 6 Jun 2018
01. The Line feat. Matthew Herbert
02. Queen Of Toys
03. Gerne feat. Gudrun Gut
04. Deadlocked feat. Roedelius
05. Blind Eye feat. Planningtorock
08. Futuro Antico
09. No War
10. Give Me Your Ghost feat. Jens Kuross