Monday, October 12, 2009

Nightmares in Brainwashed

Written by Lucas Schleicher
Sunday, 11 October 2009

The far off screaming of a tortured mass inaugurates Nightmares' 7" EP, sending a chilly wave of numbing synthesizer noise out into the world. Jonathan Canaday, David Reed, and Mark Solotroff's work together is as severe and indomitable as the product of their solo productions might suggest. Though not as frightening as their namesake implies, Nightmares' noise is oppressive and dense and more than a little uncomfortable.

Of the three releases from Nightmares this year, their 7" EP is the shortest and, for that reason, most forgiving recording. Their brevity is about all that makes these two songs tolerable. Both are filled with scores of sickly synthesizer tones and hissing noise, which together induce a claustrophobic tension and a nauseating sense of vertigo. Enjoyable only to the extent that discomfort can be, "Floating Above the Tracks" and "We Were Melded Together" do not allow for silence nor relief. Though there are spaces between the sounds and the band avoids creating an onslaught of pure noise, not one second goes that isn't tattooed by menace. Whether atonal pockets of sound are bubbling up in the background or long, obvious screeches of phased metallic noise are ripping through the foreground, I always feel pressed beneath the weight of Nightmares' unremitting electronics. The density they achieve isn't the result of stereo-filling distortion, but the accomplishment of psychological dread and volume. On the one hand, much of what is oppressing about each song can be found in how one reacts to the band's abstractions.

Whether or not I was intended to hear people screaming or to imagine the extent of infinite space while listening, I do hear and imagine those things and both cause some exciting reactions. I'm never quite scared by what I hear, but what's implied is enough to keep me on guard, always guessing what might be around the next corner. On the other hand, both songs exhibit the kind of spaciousness I'd typically associate with ambient music. The songs aren't so congested that I can't hear events when they happen. All the dissonant tones that pop up and wobble through the songs are thus able to flex their muscle to the fullest extent. Because of this sharp production and clarity I can make sense of what's happening both in the noise and inbetween its various instantiations. But, every moment is perverse and unfamiliar and haunted by an eternal horizon. Canaday, Reed, and Solotroff convincingly portray a threat out there somewhere, just beyond where you and I can see, but they never reveal it. So when the needle reaches the end of the record and the music stops, I'm almost a little too happy to put the record back in its sleeve. I don't want to know what might happen were the record to keep going.