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The Dream Syndicate

By: Callum Zeff

Artist: The Dream Syndicate Album: Inside The Dream Syndicate Volume 1: Day Of Niagra (1965)
I have never understood how truly evil pop music is until now. How mind-numbing, how tedious, how utterly devoid of emotion it is. It even destroyed my sister: "I don’t understand how you can just sit there for hours and LISTEN to music!" She couldn’t understand what purpose music could serve other than a background noise to another activity. But I don’t feel angry. I don’t feel anything. Now I understand what Iggy Pop was going on about when he said that when he’s in the grips of punk-rock "I don’t feel pleasure and I don’t feel pain, and I don’t want to either."
Back in the 60s, The Dream Syndicate (featuring that John Cale of Velvet Underground fame) would start a long tradition, going to this day with groups like the Vibracathedral Orchestra, of instrumental, improvisational groups making drone music. Good drone is more powerful than any huge orchestra piece, more emotional than any ballad, and more f*cking terrifying than any gothic nonsense. It does something to you, affects you with pure, formless, emotion. No, not even emotion. More basic than emotion.
Drone music is about as far away from music as you can get before it stops being music (depending on your definition of music, obviously). Contrary to popular belief (or what would be popular belief if more of the population knew about it), it is not one note played continuously for two hours. The music shifts, bends, like a drop of ink in a pool of water, but without fading away. There are many, many sounds made by the violin and viola, but no sound ever becomes distinct enough to emerge from the bubbling pool. A vibrating, grainy violin tone appears without a whisper and disappears just as inconspicuously. A sound like bagpipes, or a fly, or a space ship passing over head, rears up from the murky depths.
The depths are murky. This music is primordial, infinitely deep and sludgy, but without the hugely low bass sounds that many modern bands resort to if they want to sound sludgy. Stoner-rock this ain’t. Rather, it’s something simpler even than the intestinal-disfunction inducing noises of, say, Sun 0))). It induces basic fear, the rush of adrenaline; The pleasure and terror in equal amounts.
In the beginning, there was the word, and the word was oooooommmmmmm. God was, apparently, a drone music pioneer, and there is something religious about this music... or rather, something spiritual. It has been made by beings from the other side, beautiful and haunting, but they hide behind it’s thick mass, revealing themselves neither as angels nor devils. They come bearing gifts, or maybe they’re weapons, and invite you in, or are they taking you prisoner? You’ll never know.
This isn’t to many people’s liking, more so than most of my music, and that’s saying something. Hell, my mum doesn’t even like it and she’s got bucketloads of experimental composer’s work: Charles Ives, a whole big mess of prepared piano pieces, and that crazy guy in Mexico who makes music so fast he had to get one of those pianos that plays itself in order to make it. She doesn’t like this. Not because the Syndicate’s half-hour drone is overly experimental. Far from it, I’d say it’s less so than a lot of the music she’s got tucked away in her vinyl box. But this scares people. It’s not thinker’s music. Think about this too much and you’ll end up thoroughly mystified and quite damaged. Somehow, this is rock music. I don’t know how, but it is. Maybe it’s John Cale’s influence, but whatever it is, I’m pretty sure fans of Godspeed You Black Emperor! or Hawkwind will enjoy this little record. This is music to swallow you up. Step into the primordial pool, and be enveloped.

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