Restless Dream is not your average collaboration from Brisbane indie band Halfway. Restless Dream is not just a six-track album of indie-rock, nor is it just a contemporary spoken word album. This album is a story, a true story, about the hundreds of years of mistreatment the traditional owners of Australia have suffered and continue to suffer under the hand of colonisation. The opening track Water Horse, beautifully narrated by Uncle Bob Weatherall, dictates exactly what we can expect from this journey. Bob Weatherall is an elder of the Kamilaroi people, and this album is a reflection of his efforts to repatriate Aboriginal remains and objects from museums and institutions around the world. Most people around the world, and even many Australians, are unaware of what happened to the bodies of Aboriginies after they were killed during settlement, and Weatherall’s blatant and calm retelling of the true facts in Water Horse is simply chilling.
We have a small break from the narrative with the track Restless Dream, a contemplative ballad that gives us a glimpse into Halfway’s powerful songwriting. On The Dawn, we see the group's relationship fully realised as we dip in and out of Weatherall’s story, and are washed with the cinematic soundscape that Halfway create around it. Some of the final words of the track, “They gave him back in a potato sack, when they were finished with him ... he wasn't family or even a friend, just a dead black fella” are heartbreaking and they leave a poignant mark at the climax of this album.
Bobby Weatherall, William Barton and Halfway have long been friends as Bob would often join band practices, listen to them play, and share the summer nights and his stories. The collaboration on this album just made sense and it is reminiscent of the stories told on Midnight Oil’s tracks The Dead Heart and Beds Are Burning on their 1987 album Diesel and Dust. William Barton’s didgeridoo can be heard on multiple tracks throughout the album which serves as a reminder of the true sound of Australia.
The final track, Bloodlines No.2, is a repurposed Halfway song from their 2016 album The Golden Halfway Record. “This was the first song that came from those nights listening to Bobby's voice in the dark. The idea of nature telling a story - "time and trees don't lie". The stories filtered through the band, and this music came out” says John Willsteed of Halfway. Bloodlines No.2 creates an uplifting sense of hope as Weatherall finishes his narrative, however, the repatriation and reburial efforts of the taken Aboriginal people are far from over. Restless Dream is more than an album, it is a story that needed to be told and a story that needs to be heard. Halfway’s subtle and well-considered backing to Weatherall’s account is exactly what was needed on this album.
The combination of spoken word and sung messages create the perfect atmosphere for one to listen to and reflect. This is not an album to skip through, this is an album you take the time to listen to from start to finish. You sit, you listen, you reflect and you let it take you on an emotional journey that’ll leave you feeling different to what you did when you first started.