Dreams of Tall buildings
Review from losingtoday.com
Much joy in the losing today sound lounge with the arrival of this particular release. Now we’d heard all the sales pitching fanfare, even seen the occasional leaked pictures of its manufacturing process - yet nothing quite prepared for seeing it in the flesh so to speak. The second release emerging out of Dream of Tall Buildings Museum imprint (set up with the intention to disseminate rare no longer in print releases from the extensive DotB library archive and the limited issue of various installation / sonic architecture works) is a true aural and visual artefact entitled ’residuum’. limited to just 100 copies this release arrives in the form of a hand painted box entombed in a plaster cast casing inside of which are variously tucked pointer cards, an original segment of 60’s styled William Morris wallpaper and a gold cassette upon which 7 aural suites can be found.
The full story behind the project and details of the recording processes utilised can be found by way of the links provided for below. By way of some brief background the project was initially commissioned by the National Trust, Messrs Wiggan and Joyce were given the loose remit to engage, record and create an aural document for posterity - an auditory excavation if you like collected from the inner dwellings of the last remaining court of back to backs in Birmingham. Loosely referencing and much recalling of the psychogeographical opus’ of Stylus’ ‘skomargraph’ and more so the work of Drew Mulholland in his Mount Vernon Arts Lab guise whilst similarly echoing the literary work of Kneale by way of ’quatermass and the pit’ and ’the stone tape’ - the ’residuum’ suites provide a document of moments captured by way of the recording and translating of the atmospheres, moods and the encompassing of the hidden memories and replaying of their histories as revealed by the vibrations held within each buildings core fabric. By the peeling back of old wallpaper and the general removing of each room / space / locations skin whether that be merely paint, plaster or general rendering, different sonic resonances where achieved as though somehow these acts had in some way released the time periods trapped / held within, these areas were scanned and each recording and reading then fed though a PC for data translation into sound. Sound art in its purest form therefore, each of these suites explores a differing aspect of the environs mood and climate - found here amid the aural rubble ‘mitchells house’ is here sub divided into 5 parts - each portion and portrayal contrasting vividly in terms of identity, texture, design and delivery with the sparsely weaved shimmer toned glitch gilded groans of ‘#5’ incidentally coming across like an ice sculptured minimalist take on a youthful maps and diagrams with a fondness for ‘digitalis’ era ISAN and the frequency detuning modulations of the spectral pulses within ‘#4’ eerily tapping into - as were - fractured communiqués from beyond - are perched alongside the ghostly monastic almost hauntingly hymnal reverence of the dead echoing drone swathes of both ‘#3’ and ’#2’ (the latter additionally adorned with something approaching a kind of celestial visitation) with ’#1’ deep set to the solemn and desolate detailing of ominously phased darkly rupturing trance ripples and distorted playroom chorus’. bending frequencies, warping manipulations and wiring waveforms provide the glue holding together the seemingly playful ’time capsual’ - a kind of Stockhausen / Glass event as recoded through the analogue mind of Kember in his EAR guise translating and channelling white noise breaching whispers by means of a sonic séance which leaves ’house 2 - binaural’ to wrap up matters and provide a real time collage of sorts that cross wires an aural depiction of family / working life in an attempt to peak into the locations past. Multi dimensional strangeness from this most eclectic of sound alchemists.
Dreams of Tall buildings vs. Scott Smallwood
Songs of Opposites
Review from losingtoday.com
Without doubt the best looking thing we’ve received in yonks this - limited or should I say strictly limited to just 100 copies (and word is on presales alone this is fast dwindling) cute thing comes packaged like one of those old floppy disc things from the 80’s - housed in a neat Memorex sleeve to boot. At first we thought uh-ho given that previous dotb releases have either come pressed between planks of wood or as mummified soap slabs, maybe, just maybe this would be another release to merely drool over for looks alone, but hey we are veterans of the Krypton Factor and having pondered after a sleepless night found our way into said package to unearth a CD with 8 tracks to boot - whoopee! Be warned though it’s a lights on to be played in the day time type release, this isn’t your playful dotb here this is their impish alter ego hell bent on frazzling your head and into the process scaring you shitless. Resorting to sound manipulations, distortions and drone-scapes ’Songs of Opposites’ creates a deceptive barren like collage of moods as eerie as we’ve heard since Tears of Abraham’s ’Sacrificing the Text’ earlier last year and perhaps further still to those all important early outings of Pimmon (especially on ‘Red becomes black‘).
It’s not all doom and gloom though - okay then we are talking degrees of doom and gloom here - after the disturbing opening shot of ‘96 small squares’ which to these ears possesses shades of Barry Gray’s closing credits to ‘UFO’ the doomy bleakness of ‘Feed’ soon dissipates as the organic augmentation begins to take shape a la Set Fire to Flames. On the other hand ‘Black Ice Letters’ could easily be the long lost art of Martian communication chattering incessantly inside your head while the quite frankly ominous and dare we say bed wetting ‘Patience knows these hands’ is distracting only for the fact that you’ll either keep checking behind the sofa expecting to be met by something with large teeth and a taste for human flesh or have the overriding need to impishly scream ‘It’s behind you’.
Perhaps the most together cut to be found on this collection is ‘Propaganda Film’ which itself belies an oddly Far East resonance while being equipped with all manner of bells, chattering clicks and spooky creaks and groans - not so much a song as such but rather more a passing through a point of reverence. Personally though for me the ornate after dark down tempo vibe of ‘Victory found in books’ serves as the high water mark here as for once the abstract / concrete tendencies and the visibly alien terrains are left aside in their place warmer textures and a lunar like calm not unlike the type Warp used to frequently engage in pervades throughout. Eclectic and erratic they may be but Dreams of Tall Buildings can and never will be accused of being dull. Essential and indeed worrying your life mightn’t be made any more enlightened for the experience of having it but your record collection will certainly be that much cooler. Consider yourselves told.
Dreams of Tall buildings
Live at CBSO Centre 2001 (Bearos)
Review from Penny Black Music Magazine
This is probably the single most nicely packaged CD I have ever seen. The wonderfully understated hand-drawn box closes with a piece of cloth into which is stitched the band's name. The whole thing is covered with brown paper and tied with string like an old fashioned parcel. The title is printed on a seperate label and the track listing has been written with a typewriter on a small piece of musical score paper and folded inside a tiny envelope.
It would be a tragedy then if this was a style over substance record where the actual music was a huge disappointment and I am very happy to say it's not. The sounds created by Dream of Tall Buildings actually fit perfectly with the retro, minimalist packaging although as all the packaging is individually made other copies may come adorned with bright pink stars for all I know.
This live set was recorded in 2001 at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra practice space to what sounds like an audience of ten people. Thankfully now those of us who missed this gig can enjoy a wonderful set of pared down instrumental songs. The eight songs flow nearly seamlessly into one another for thirty odd minutes of gorgeous, abstract sound.
Although it occasionally strays a bit, and starts to sound like a couple of guys banging frying pans, in general this is a great chilled out album, if a little short. Perhaps unsurprisingly it doesn't totally live up to its packaging but to do that it would have to be inhumanly great. While it won't be the best album released this year it is the perfect alternative to all those dreadful post-pub 'chillout' albums by the likes of Zero7 that seem to appear all the time. And how often do you get to hear a typewriter solo?
Review from losingtoday.com
Simply beautiful, not only in terms of the sounds but also the packaging. This is another of those ultra limited 100 press runs from Bearos, replete with individually hand drawn CD designs and card packaging held together with an embroidered strip and house in brown paper wrapping so as to give the impression of some kind of long lost artefact, so wonderful it looks that you feel guilty for opening it, but then DOTB have always been known for their close attention to the most minutiae elements of their releases in fact there last limited release on Victory Garden (a cassette entombed in wax) to this day still remains unopened and with it, unheard.
Dream of Tall Buildings are perhaps a band who, to those in the know, should need no introduction, like their live performances no two releases are alike everything is fair game as far as sounds go, so that on occasions their creative expressions are borne through swooning tempestuous atmospheric epics that bleed through collages of samples and organic treatments at others they furrow through deliberately harsh minimalist noise squalls that test the listeners patience to the limit. Formed in 1999 the trio have brought their ‘conceptual art’ to the lucky few, limited releases curiously (though interestingly) packaged has been their mainstay. This recording finds them in the comfortable surroundings of the wooden panelled fluted roofed practice space of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as part of the city’s Arts Fest weekend way back in 2001.
Combining the sounds of guitars, a grand piano, a percussive typewriter to their usual web of loops and samples DotB prove undaunted by the surroundings and set about harnessing a cosily tranquil collection of classically touched arrangements that has only been subtlety suggested in their recorded output so far. Listening wise it’s a wonderful spectacle with all the natural characteristics of each of the compositions bleeding and blurring into each other so that the overall tone dips between one of ethnicity and elegance. Opening to the lulling ‘Lakeside’ it doesn’t take the trio long to immerse themselves into a softer rendition of their art, the complex tribal textures and unusual time signatures provided for within the climatically stifling ‘Floodhorse’ build ominously block by block into a dense patchwork that recalls (strangely) Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’ yet soon tastefully melts away into the haunting evensong ‘Can I tell you tomorrow’ which touches casually Roy Budd’s ‘Get Carter’ soundtrack replete with a truly eerie creeping cast while on ‘thethingyousawinCanadawasaCloud’ they magnificently utilise the feel for suspense pretty much with the same gusto as Morricone. Yet it’s the parting track ‘Approachable Light’ that pulls gently on the heart strings, as tenderly beautiful as anything we’ve ever heard, celestially strings and piano motifs sway gently to sooth the emotions while in the distance a typewriter (yes you heard right) furiously clicks away. Simply breath-taking stuff.
Review from Bliss Aquamarine
Dreams of Tall Buildings' records have some of the most inventive packaging ever, for example the 7" packaged with a genuine X-ray, and the 7" bolted between two squares of wood! Bearos have released a live CDR by DOTB, recorded at the CBSO centre in 2001 (but released 3 years later). The packaging of this might not be as bizarre as two planks of wood with a bolt through the middle, but still has a creative and personal touch. The brown cardboard sleeve has hand-drawn artwork, as does the CD itself. A pocket inside the sleeve contains an envelope containing the tracklist, which is individually typed on a manual typewriter (not photocopied). The sleeve is sealed with an embroidered Dreams of Tall Buildings nametag, like those tags used to label school uniforms with the child's name. All of this is then wrapped in crinkly brown paper, hand stamped with the band name, album title and catalogue number, and tied up with string. I do like it when bands go to such an effort to package their releases, it shows they're serious about what they do.
One of the people from DOTB is Justin Wiggan, formerly of Subaqwa, but you don't really need to know this as the style of this band couldn't be further away from Justin's previous band. DOTB are an experimental band and their music would come as a shock to anyone expecting the song-oriented guitar music of Subaqwa. Whilst I have heard a couple of DOTB tracks in the past that have been too abstract/devoid of tune for my taste, in general they make the positive, creative kind of experimental music. DOTB show that there is such as thing as very good experimental music, it just requires a lot of creativity and talent. All too often, people with neither of these try to make experimental music and it just sounds an amateurish mess, but this band know what they are doing. The music here combines drones, sound effects, percussion, and melodies that are often subtle but strong enough to hold the attention. They even use a typewriter as an instrument, alongside piano and wind instruments, in the beautiful and dreamlike track Unapproachable Light. A very impressive and original band.
STOP PRESS: After writing this review I found out from the Bearos site that this is now sold out! Still, much of what I said above applies to DOTB in general, and I recommend you look out for anything by this band.
Dreams of Tall buildings
doTb - double 7"(Bearos)
Review from Penny Black Music Magazine
I have mentioned before how i am fond of the 7" single. Well, in all honesty, i picked this release up because it was $3 and, well, i liked the name of the band. Kind of silly i know, but sometimes when you take chances like this you get interesting things. (Please note that i only will review the interesting chance encounters here, as you really don't need to hear about generic metal bands or crappy lo-fi pop acts.)
So, Dreams of Tall Buildings have released an EP that is a double 7". The packaging is pretty darned minimal: a cardboard mailer with their logo on it, two discs in plastic bags (song titles printed on one side only, with cryptic messages etched into the vinyl near the label), and a little advertisement/mini catalog for the label, who are apparently in Birmingham, UK. The mini-catalog sheet describes the release as "atmospheric sound collages and rhythms". That's really about right.
This is slow ambient music made out of layers of various samples. Whoever is responsible for the music has done a really good job with it. There are vocal samples, which are interesting snippets or conversations or speeches, nice drones, strange rhythmic sounds, etc. All fade in and out to nice effect.
It's not really possible to describe music this ambient. I mean, there aren't instruments, or a verse/chorus/verse structure to discuss. It's music that ebbs and flows, growing in the background, painting a picture of some kind (and i suspect that picture is different for each listener).
I listen to a fair amount of this type of music, and i honestly feel that the Remember the Words is one of the better releases in this genre. To me, this sounds like what The Orb would have done in 1994, if they had decided to do a fully ambient release. That is, this release consists of sound collages that remind me of the quality of stuff The Orb were doing in their heyday, only DoTB use fewer beats. Basically, I think that, in 1994 The Orb were doing things with samples that no one else had ever thought of, layering hundreds of different sounds into rich and complex structures. Dreams of Tall Buildings do that too – if you sit and listen on headphones, you can have a different listening experience each time, as you focus on different layers of the sample mix.
Well, either that makes sense to you, in which case you probably want to add this release to your "to look for" list, or it makes no sense whatsoever, in which case you probably wouldn't enjoy the EP anyway.
I, however, am rather impressed, and hope to see more from this artist.
Binary Oppositions Comilation featuring doTb
Review from Gaz Eta website
To coincide with an exhibition opening in at Citric Gallery in Brescia, Italy, which was curated by Matt Price, Birmingham-based Static Caravan imprint put together a 21-track compilation, titled "Binary Oppositions". Main goal of the release is to build on the art gallery exhibition's theme of scrutinizing impact of lo-fi culture in hi-fi world. Each of the twenty-one pieces tackles the opposing views of analogue versus digital, via themes of nostalgia versus newness and hand-made versus mass-produced. What a full package this is, brimming with electronic-folk-pop goodness. The Young Baron gives us a quirky, na?ve, chanting "Musical Box". Seeland pretend they're an electronically twisted Brian Wilson, while Mike in Mono strikes out with a lo-fi, machine-box heavy, robotic "Almost Unreachable". Misty's Big Adventure's "The Long Conveyor Belt" recalls the long-gone days of Caravan and Dreams of Tall Buildings belch out an operatic, chant-off on their percussion-heavy performance on "The Shortest Day". I could go on forever as far as the highlights go, but truth is, every one of the tracks is a little tale of resistance in and of itself. Brilliant!
Sixty Minutes - Compilation featuring doTb (WIAIWYA)
Review from EMPTY Magazine
No one would like to call their label Where It’s At Is Where You Are. Well, except the people from Where It’s At Is Where You Are. No one would like to ask sixty (yeah, that’s 60) artists to make an around-one-minute track to make an around-sixty-minutes (that’s one hour) CD. Well, except the people from Where It’s At Is Where You Are. No one likes videogame techno and 8-bit ambient. Well, except the people from Where It’s At Is Where You Are (and Jimmy, Darky and me as well). No one has a range of tastes so wide they could like nofi pop with sweet vocal tunes recorded in a bedroom, electroclash, guitar ambient, jungle, strangebeatmusictheycalltechnoTM, hiphop and noisy electronica. Well, except the people from Where It’s At Is Where You Are (and Jimmy, and me as well). I bet there’s not room enough left in their house to store all the records they have/like/listen to. They say you get 60 masterpieces on this record for a bare £3 (and Psapp’s track is really a damn masterpiece!) but they forgot to mention the record itself is a masterpiece: these people at Where It’s At Is Where You Are, they’re my buddies, although I never met them.
Interview with doTb (conducted 2000)
Featured on the Bearos website
Dreams of Tall Buildings are Darren Joyce, Simon Oz and Justin Wiggan. They formed at the end of 1999 and dived into a caffeine fuelled haze of found sounds and short wave radio oscillations. Initial explorations led to the release of a series of limited tapes and CDRs in hand made packaging that included branded wooden sleeves and hospital specimen bags.
They have described their sound as ranging from minimal microwaves, breathing and non-notes to hideously distorted trumpet and string loops (a bit like Miles Davis stabbing Stan Getz in a floatation tank!)
More about their recordings later, first I wanted to ask them about their live performances:
"The shows depend on the venue," explains Justin.
"It was like with the CBSO gig," adds Darren, "we went to see the place and it had such beautiful acoustics that we decided that we wanted to combine acoustic instruments that naturally travel well in that environment as well as the keyboards and electronics."
"I think that set had a real classical sound," says Justin. "We would not have been able to get away with that in any other venue. It would not have carried."
It was a very different set to the one at the Medicine Bar, I suggest. "That was very cold and very harsh," he replies.
"We try to adapt to each gig," says Darren. "The only one that was not like that was The Klinker Club in London. We went down blind but had an idea of the gig we wanted to do. We took everything so that all we needed was two 13 amp sockets. We don't like to repeat ourselves or play the same set twice.
"When we work on a live show we start off trying different orders of loops and samples," he continues. "It takes time, two or three weeks to get a flow of what we want."
"We then try out different instruments on each track which is why we end up using so many instruments on stage," says Simon.
"We can't play half of them which is the great thing," admits Darren. "We approach it at a level of naivety and we sometimes get something quite different."
One of the most impressive things about the live shows is the way that that three members effortlessly move around each other and the various instruments. "It's almost as if we choreograph ourselves," says Darren. "We use such a small room to rehearse in that we get used to it."
Justin explains that they've even had local dancers offering work with them! "Rather than us writing music for them, they had the idea of inventing a piece for us, putting all the equipment in a diagonal line and getting us to work our way around it."
Three people producing conceptual art; sounds like trouble! Consensus or compromise? "I think we compromise, says Darren, "but I think that we're lucky enough to have all agreed and liked the stuff we've done so far."
"It's almost as if we know what the brief is," adds Justin. "We have an idea what Dreams of Tall Buildings is about and we all work towards that. We all know each other and we all trust each other."
"If a track needs finishing off," says Darren. "I could just as easily let Simon carry on and do it. I'd have no problem what they came up with and the same vice versa."
"Having different tastes is what makes it more exciting," explains Simon. "If you've all got the same albums you'd just be nodding your head to the same beat," continues Darren.
How do you know when to stop?
"That's part of the reason that we were excited about doing the Static Caravan single; 10 tracks, 1 minute each," starts Simon.
"It is really hard to condense what you want to do into 1 minute," continues Darren. "Getting a minute piece was good for us because we can waffle on a bit! I think you just have to step back and listen to it. I've just bought a 16-track studio, there's so much room on there. I've had to back-track on a few of the tracks because I've put things in just because I can and there's been no need. Sometimes the equipment you use can limit you and that's a good thing."
Can conceptual work be done badly?
Simon: "If you don't do it!"
Justin: "How can you define something as bad art? It's down do the individual."
Darren: "Not if ultimately you are not bullshitting yourself, pretending to be anything or anyone else. Hopefully what comes across is that we all love what we do. I wouldn't care if no one was out there listening to us. It's great that people do but I just love doing it. I'd set up in the street. It shows through if you are not honest about it and that comes through as bad art. For our first live show I did the sound. It was such a new outing for us that I wanted to be a punter and see what we would look like actually doing it. I needed to stand back and think would I actually like this, would I actually watch it and I thought 'yeah, I would like it and I would watch it'."
"We'd like to work more with film-makers, says Darren. "There's a piece we are doing at the moment for a guy called Mike Stubbs," continues Simon. "He's a visual artist based up in Aberdeen who's previously worked with David Lynch. He's got a 10 minute piece based around a Dundee council estate."
"It's a bunch of kids trashing a knock off, a robbed car," explains Darren, "and he's asked us to do a 10 minute soundtrack. That's good because he's obviously got the links with David Lynch."
"There's also a guy called Sid Cornelius," adds Justin. "He does this weird sort of hip-hop with spasticated timing. I've never heard anything like that. He's done remixes of two of the tracks from the single; Shield and Sink and Quiet Cab Home. It's great. He usually works with four-track and vinyl but he's moving onto computers. He does not know how to use them - I'm quite excited to see what he'll do!"
"There are some exciting things coming up in the future," he continues, "but it would be foolish of us to talk about it before they are finalised. Don't sell the fur before you've shot the bear!"