by Will Johnson (@wmjohnson95)
Occasionally I’ll dream of an event that happened to me when I was very young, and I’ll wake up excited that I’ve resurfaced a memory. This is always immediately followed by complete mistrust that it ever actually happened. Did I actually resurface that memory or was the resurfacing part of the dream?
Dreamend is the project of Savannah, GA based musician and Graceface Records & Curiosities owner Ryan Graveface. The music primarily consists of loops and vocals from Ryan, with additional vocals by The Casket Girls and Alexandra Morte, and percussion by Pedro the Lion’s TW Walsh. Dreamend contemplates the unreliability of memory, the distance between oneself and one’s memories, and intimacy as the measurable distance between people.
Dreamend is a radical departure from driving guitar and banjo of Ryan’s 2012 record: And the Tears Washed Me, Wave After Cowardly Wave. Since the 2012 release, Ryan has been diagnosed with progressive hearing loss, and dealing with its effects on his compositional process. In contrast to his previous records, Dreamend is violently distorted and rhythmically ambiguous. Sounds of broken synthesizers and out of tune instruments dimly light the record’s sonic landscape. The idea of a “song” is subverted; perhaps it’s better to refer to this album as a collection of “pieces” instead.
The introduction begins calmly, but any peace is quickly disrupted by a scream-like synth. By the time, "Falling," the second track arrives, all the sounds are distorted; the narrator is obsessed with distance. He sings, “From the deepest ocean of the sea / I can feel your heart beat next to me.” These lyrics repeat throughout the song, as well as “falling, I’m falling.” The lyrics throughout Dreamend come from a personal place, and hint towards an intimate relationship. They’re repetitive and meditative, but it’s unclear if the singers represent various narrators, or if they speak for the same narrator. Voices aren’t ever in explicit conversation, and there’s a sense that all the singers are separated from each other, but—somehow—sharing an experience.
Throughout much of the record, lyrics are obfuscated by walls of synths, guitars, and distortion, but in “In a Year and a Day” the phrase “hold on” boldly repeats throughout the beginning of the song. The song is intimate, and invites you deeper into the record. Thoughts and memories start to become physical, “staring at the things you think of me.”
As the album progresses, things begin to break. “Halfway Between You and Me” is delirious and introspective; the song’s narrator reflects on the distance between their self and their other. “Remember the First Time” begins terribly out of tune. Throughout this song, Ryan sings, “Remember the first time […] and I remember long ago,” as if he’s trying to reassure himself that it’s okay to trust in the reality of the memory.
The last piece on Dreamend, “To See This Moment,” finds the narrator out of a space of memory and in the space of now. “Remember the time,” a piece-ing of the previous lyric (“remember the first time”) repeats throughout the song. This repetition invites the listener to reach outward to present time and place rather than reaching in towards the subjectivity of memory.
I’m convinced, after listening to Dreamend, that perception and memory are both untrustworthy. Distance doesn’t have to be long for it to be great, and the distance between any two people’s subjectivities is always shifting. In this regard, Dreamend pushes up against the limitations of intimacy. Whatever glimpses into another person’s subjectivity we experience, they’re only ever fragile pieces.