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Dreamies (2006 Special Edition) [Remastered]

Bill Holt

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Album Review

Inspired by the aural collage of the Beatles' "Revolution Number 9," as well as the musique concrete of composers such as John Cage and Terry Riley and Bob Dylan's conscientious rock lyricism, Bill Holt quit his straight job in 1972 to follow his musical muse, hoarding various electronic gadgets and an acoustic guitar and holing up in his basement. He emerged a year later with Dreamies, one of the finest pieces of experimental pop from the era. Unlike the Beatles' White Album collage, though, the pair of sidelong, 26-minute epics — "Program Ten" and "Program Eleven" (as if progressing directly from "Revolution Number 9") — that Holt created were much more than symbolic representations of the chaotic times. At its heart, the album is a blend of folk and pop/rock, and in many respects, Dreamies fits in with the singer/songwriter scene that flowered in the early '70s. Instead of relying simply on the juxtapositions of his sound samples to impart subjective meanings, Holt composed lovely, downhearted melodies (very much recalling John Lennon) and trippy lyrics as a jumping-off point for each collage and then let acoustic guitar guide them through the gauntlet of sound. In fact, "Program Ten" is a combination of two identifiable songs, "Sunday Morning Song" and "The User," the two melodies weaving in and out of the cacophony of noise-crickets, atmospheric sounds, a John Kennedy speech, NASA chatter, news reports, glass breaking, a thunderstorm, sports broadcasts, and gunfire while a synthesizer spits out spacey alien sounds or cuts like a kettle whistle, and an ominous bassline oscillates beneath it all. "Program Eleven" exchanges that white noise for airport sounds, creepy Sgt. Pepper-style chants that bubble up from beneath the single melody fragment ("Going for a Ride"), game show catch phrases, and popping corn. Of the two pieces, "Program Ten" is the more socially charged commentary, setting the innocent recollections of youth — the sounds of summer and nature — against the misanthropic confusion of war and politics to powerful effect. "Program Eleven" is more psychedelically eerie and haunting, aurally dense, and thick with bad vibes, but wonderful nonetheless. The spoken samples are mostly more buried in the background and difficult to make out. It adds both intrigue and mystery to the piece, a foreboding end to what began optimistically. The music, in other words, ingeniously mirrored the sort of evolution of consciousness that was so much a part of the era. Dreamies went virtually unheard when it was released, perhaps because it was the antithesis of commercial rock at the time, but, despite its grounding in the ambiance and issues of the '60s, it still sounds outstanding decades after the fact.

Customer Reviews

Two Reviews

From The All Music Guide: Inspired by the aural collage of the Beatles' "Revolution Number 9," as well as the musique concrete of composers such as John Cage and Terry Riley and Bob Dylan's conscientious rock lyricism, Bill Holt quit his straight job in 1972 to follow his musical muse, hoarding various electronic gadgets and an acoustic guitar and holing up in his basement. He emerged a year later with Dreamies, one of the finest pieces of experimental pop from the era. Unlike the Beatles' White Album collage, though, the pair of sidelong, 26-minute epics -- "Program Ten" and "Program Eleven" (as if progressing directly from "Revolution Number 9") -- that Holt created were much more than symbolic representations of the chaotic times. At its heart, the album is a blend of folk and pop/rock, and in many respects, Dreamies fits in with the singer/songwriter scene that flowered in the early '70s. Instead of relying simply on the juxtapositions of his sound samples to impart subjective meanings, Holt composed lovely, downhearted melodies (very much recalling John Lennon) and trippy lyrics as a jumping-off point for each collage and then let acoustic guitar guide them through the gauntlet of sound. In fact, "Program Ten" is a combination of two identifiable songs, "Sunday Morning Song" and "The User," the two melodies weaving in and out of the cacophony of noise-crickets, atmospheric sounds, a John Kennedy speech, NASA chatter, news reports, glass breaking, a thunderstorm, sports broadcasts, and gunfire while a synthesizer spits out spacey alien sounds or cuts like a kettle whistle, and an ominous bassline oscillates beneath it all. "Program Eleven" exchanges that white noise for airport sounds, creepy Sgt. Pepper-style chants that bubble up from beneath the single melody fragment ("Going for a Ride"), game show catch phrases, and popping corn. Of the two pieces, "Program Ten" is the more socially charged commentary, setting the innocent recollections of youth -- the sounds of summer and nature -- against the misanthropic confusion of war and politics to powerful effect. "Program Eleven" is more psychedelically eerie and haunting, aurally dense, and thick with bad vibes, but wonderful nonetheless. The spoken samples are mostly more buried in the background and difficult to make out. It adds both intrigue and mystery to the piece, a foreboding end to what began optimistically. The music, in other words, ingeniously mirrored the sort of evolution of consciousness that was so much a part of the era. Dreamies went virtually unheard when it was released, perhaps because it was the antithesis of commercial rock at the time, but, despite its grounding in the ambiance and issues of the '60s, it still sounds outstanding decades after the fact. From Pitchfork: The album is a triumph. It's difficult to even place it in context because it's such an oddball little record, on the one hand probing whatever corners of his mind Holt felt were worthy of exploration, and on the other deftly preserving a sense of popular songcraft. Holt structured his album in two side-long suites, "Program Ten" and "Program Eleven". The numbers he chose were not random: He saw his work as a direct continuation of what the Beatles did on "Revolution 9", packing it with found sound, including a couple of boldly snatched samples of "I've Just Seen a Face", "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", "Oh! Darling", and "All You Need Is Love". Not that sampling other peoples' records got him into trouble. The simple fact is that almost no one heard the album upon its initial release, and the situation has barely improved since. In fact, until Gear Fab records resurrected Dreamies back in 2000 for a limited release, the album was completely unavailable outside of collectors' circles, qualifying it for genuine Lost Classic status. This most recent reissue sounds absolutely fantastic, presenting Holt's hi-fi vision with brilliant clarity, subdivided into tracks of more manageable lengths. As the album opens, President John Kennedy mingles with a field of insects, making his famous payload/payroll gaff in a speech about the space program. This gives way to Holt's acoustic guitar, slowly descending through some basic chords and his mellow, double-tracked vocal. This trippy little song becomes the backbone of a 26-minute odyssey that teeters on chaos at points as radio transmissions, snippets of title fight broadcasts and recordings of shattering glass interrupt and fade, all the while dappled with Moog overdubs. Holt hands the melody to the Moog on occasion, but mostly uses it to create the album's weird, buzzing ambience. On the flip side, "Program Eleven" is more aggressive and downcast, featuring a loop of Holt's whispered exhortation to "just dream" used as a rhythm, along with numerous samples of gunfire and TV commercials. Holt also appears to have made some of his own field recordings, as apparent subway announcements and dinner conversation leak into the texture, fighting with simple psychedelic pop for the listener's attention while Moogs climb and descend scales. Eventually, the suite veers into jarring passages of noise and overlapping voices. The overall effect is something like a primordial Olivia Tremor Control, and easily as wild and unfettered as anything the Residents were doing in the 70s. Dreamies has its obvious and acknowledged influences-- the Beatles and John Cage chief among them-- but it's also clearly the work of an untutored auteur dissecting his own mind in the basement on reel-to-reel. Holt never recorded again, as the financial losses he suffered making the album forced him back into the workaday world, but more than 30 years later, his one moment on tape still sounds incredible.

Biography

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Bill Holt grew up obliviously happy in the 1950s in Springfield, Delaware County, a suburb of Philadelphia. As for many kids during the period, it seemed a time of wonderful affluence, characterized by innocent pop music, paper routes, frogs in jars, and Schwinn bicycles. In stark contrast was the emerging world of the Cold War and rock & roll, hot rods, and young-rebel movies. Despite his guileless upbringing, Holt came of age during the changing times of the early '60s, and his latent political...
Full Bio
Dreamies (2006 Special Edition) [Remastered], Bill Holt
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