Weird Dreams play some of the more unusual and enchanting music I’ve heard at Rough Trade for a little while. Vocals rich in dreamy Beach Boys-inspired harmonies combine with synthesiser lightly-infused with the wandering ghosts of early 80’s New Romanticism, and more urgent and rockier, yet sympathetically delivered guitar to create delicate, almost fairytale melodies which conceal a bittersweet edge and darker, harder lyrics. It’s a beautiful, beguiling sound with an underlying tension that whilst often felt, never quite breaks the surface.
I read an interview with Doran Edwards, the creative force behind Weird Dreams, on Stereogum where he says that “reflections of water on a swimming pool ceiling at night” were an inspiration for the sound on the new record. As I listen to the album while I write this, I can see that this an image that Doran has translated incredibly skilfully in to sound. The feeling of floating, comfortably isolated and enfolded by the water, letting its gentle movement control yours is an underlying thread which joins the songs on the album together making for a wonderfully cohesive series of soundscapes.
It’s also a complex, layered sound, and it’s hard to believe it can be played this well live. Weird Dreams’ band line-up has changed more or less completely since the previous album, Choreography released in 2012. Now Michael Bateson-Hill plays the keyboards, Matt Turner plays bass, Samuel Mason plays guitar and provides those lovely backing harmonies and Cedric Monzali can be found on drums.
The stage set-up is easily as distinctive as the sound, with Cedric on drums situated off on the right hand side of the stage facing inwards and Doran on synth and other electronic wizardry and guitarist and vocalist Samuel almost back to back centre stage. I’m guessing this helps getting those harmonies pitch perfect, and they really are incredibly good. All of this makes for some really interesting compositions from in front of the stage, with both singers at the front of the stage facing in different directions and also from the side of the stage using a narrow depth of field and shooting past Cedric as he drums.
What did make things interesting from a technical perspective was the band’s request for blue lighting… Even with the added warm white form the birdies overhead, the power bricks can pump out a lot over very powerful blue light. The naked eye seems to see a much greater range of tone and hue than the camera’s sensor so when you’re watching the set the blue isn’t so obvious. In, fact the band looked great, and the mood of the coloured light matched the music perfectly creating a great atmosphere. However, the images I captured using the Auto White Balance setting were flooded out by blues and purples. When you look at the colour histograms for the images, there’s just no green there at all. Luckily, Samuel, and in particular the combination of his positioning on the stage, half turned towards the power-bricks, and his white t-shirt, meant that with a little experimentation I was able to take a custom white balance measurement and dial back the blue a significantly. I was actually very lucky that Lampy stuck to one colour for the whole set meaning that once I’d finally got the white balance sorted, I was good to shoot for the rest of the evening…
Rough Trade East – 10/06/2016