My first reaction to receiving the promo kit from Chicago's goth-rock-ambient hybrid style group was, "Wow, what a gorgeous pack." Held in a slick plastic document holder with logo and business card on the front and further wrapped in a black binder, this group sure has a sense of style and professionalism. Inside the promo sheets were just as well thought out and written. I'm always wowed by how much indie artists like this put into their first impression. Needless to say, it was one I made a note of to mention in this review long before I spun their music - so keep that in mind future submitters. Style gets high marks!
Building upon the creative vision of Gene Blalock (vocals/guitars/writing), Garden of Dreams creates a moody and encapsulating musical experience. Gene was joined by William (guitars), Michael (bassist), Reuben (keyboards) and Graham (drummer) and each winds their own musical skills expertly into the tracks. While the occasional track will continue ever onward for too long of a period, most are well executed and highly complicated, showcasing a superb and masterful collection of artists and their ability to coalesce their skills together to create a collection of dreamlike music and sensational arrangements.
Currently released under Seraph, the same label who brought us Paris By Night, Garden of Dreams' Everything is a full length, nine track album with songs ranging in length from 4:20 to nearly fifteen minutes (Red Pink). Clocking in a total of just over an hour, Everything is 67 minutes of dream-woven, albeit occasionally droning, ambient-rock of the likes of a Black Tape For a Blue Girl or darker Pink Floyd. Combining elements of ambient, lush synth/keys and strumming near-folk guitars, Garden Of Dreams have a strong release with but few quirks. Gene's vocals are sweet and introspective, one of the few examples of enchanting male vocalists you can find today.
Velevet Waves is the opener of Everything. The song has a flowing effect but has a droning quality about the rhythm - I can't quite place it though I think the guitars have a lot to do with it. The vocals are deeply confined inside the surrounding instrumentation, an effect that adds to the drag of the sound. The distorted guitars during chorus areas don't seem to belong with the surrounding arrangement. Not my favorite track. The second, Glow, however is a beautifully arranged piece with a vibrant bass line and string arrangement (keyboards I do believe). Vocals are beautifully done, showcasing Gene's soft voice. A love song of sorts, "I don't want to fall from where we are now," the lyrics are poetic and lovely. A highlight of the album.
Red Pink is the near-fifteen minute track that opens comfortably enough with guitars and ambient-style, wrap-around keyboard arrangements. It continues into a lush arrangement of melodies. The problem with the track is it's not one that needs to be as long as it is - maybe seven minutes, half the time, would have sufficed. The lyrics actually end halfway through the track and what remains is a long instrumental closing. The instrumental arrangement here is quite good - but I had had enough of it after another minute or so. Then it ended somewhat around 8 minutes, but the track continued into a futuresque soundscape quality with strumming guitars and buzzing keyboards. Drums are harsh but rhythmic when they come in, but I think it would have been better ended here without this instrumental piece, a Floydian attempt at surrealistic styles. To quote Sarah [Labyrinth], "It just goes on and on, there's no turns or doors or anything." I typically skip to the next track, When You Dream, at just about this time.
Let's jump ahead to the closing track, The Griffin. It opens with a void-like, windy ambient keyboard solo that is one of the best of this style I've found - even among pure ethereal/ambient artists. A floating-in-the-abyss feel is attached and a strumming bass melody joins the wind and is carried by it. Later on the song has a soothing effect with a very light 'n tasty bass line - the strumming scratchy guitar could be tossed though, the keys, bass and cymbal led drumrolls taking it on their own.
Garden of Dreams have a definite skill for complicated and lush arrangements. Melding qualities of folk-like rock scores and Pink Floyd lyrics and keyboards, they have created an excellent release with a few droning, drawn-out quirks about it. Glow is probably one of the more beautiful songs I've come across in years and if they can just cut short a few of their longer tracks, or at least mix it up a bit more within their length, they'll be much better for it I think.
Post: Garden of Dreams, P.O. Box 13110, Chicago, Illinois, 60613-3110
Phone: (312) 409-7976
Fax: (773) 286-5099