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Monster Movie / Dreamend - Preface

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Artist: Monster Movie / Dreamend

Album: Preface

Label: Graveface

Review date: Jun. 4, 2003

The price is right

For seventeen minutes and twenty-four seconds the word demands to be said, so let's get it out of the way right now: shoegazer. Don't get me wrong: Preface, a quasi-introductory split EP between England's Monster Movie and Chicago's Dreamend, doesn't epitomize the genre, but it's loaded with enough ethereal distortion and barely intelligible lament that I felt the term should be brought out early on. It will come in handy later.

The two songs from Monster Movie should be glorious, with their overwhelmingly lush soundscapes and gently melancholy melodies. However, both stop short so close to complete bliss that the result is in fact quite frustrating; how could they possibly give up when the near-perfect song is just within reach? The first, "Beautiful Arctic Star," is ready to tear some shit up with dense vibraphones (synthesized, natch), a pulsing bassline, and Christian Savill's (ex-Slowdive) dramatically plaintive vocals – but the absence of any drums recorded above afterthought status in the mix (let alone played live) seriously impairs the track's ultimate power. The subsequent electric piano and harmonica lull of "Nobody Sees" (listed elsewhere as "Nobodies") would be an appropriate slowdown from the first song if only it had had the right force, but, as it is, the drumlessness of the second coupled with the impotence of the drums in the first leaves the Monster Movie contributions lacking.

Dreamend, meanwhile, take the opposite route, starting each of their three untitled (or maybe called "...ellipsis..." one through three, depending on your interpretation of the solemnly dignified packaging and the band's ridiculously pretentious website) instrumental tracks unimpressively but building them to astonishingly moving climaxes. Each song has essentially the same structure – whereby a hazily hypnotic melodic pattern is introduced and given increasing momentum until crashing into a wall of ruthless distortion – but predictability doesn't sap the awe and emotion in any of them one bit. 1 is the shoegaziest of the lot, 2 is a little more energetic, and 3 resounds pleasingly with the rise-and-fall flurry of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Without much variety to the instrumentation or approach, Dreamend's music is still powerful and redolent enough that even as a background for a spoken-word public service announcement about colorectal cancer from Rod Roddy (of "The Price Is Right") it sounds strangely beautiful. Trust me. I have empirical proof.

I dare say that Preface is worth owning for the three Dreamend tracks, which total just over ten minutes – and I'm not unwilling to concede that my frustration with the two from Monster Movie are due solely to my own affinity/demand for a coherent and assertive beat. And whether or not there's anything worthwhile left to say about the shoegazer genre as a whole – drums that aren't there, or song titles that don't appear to exist – I find it difficult to deny that either of these bands has enormous potential.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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