One of Chris Forsyth's many gifts as a guitarist is his ability to create a sonic sprawl that always makes quantitative sense. Whether engaging American and Anglo-Saxon roots styles, psychedelia, or kosmiche projection, his sense of space and attention to melody are enviable. Since forming the Solar Motel Band, his explorations have revolved around everything from muscular jams strong on six-string pyrotechnics, to intensely minimal lyric songs.
Dreaming in the Non-Dream contains four songs spread over 35 minutes -- two are over 11. The set was cut live in the studio with precious few overdubs added later. The Solar Motel Band includes veterans Peter Kerlin on low strings and Shawn Edward Hansen on synth, Wurlitzer, and alto saxophone, along with new drummer Ray Kubian and Jeff Zeigler on electronics. This is a continuation of Forsyth's guitar-based methodology, though the particular nuances differ from what we’ve heard before. Opener "History & Science Fiction" commences with a simple two-chord sequence illustrated by layered guitar chords and vamps. They establish a harmonic and rhythmic base. Forsyth's solos all emerge from melody; they go inside the chord changes to explore every tonality encountered and in turn extend their dynamics. As it progresses, his playing travels afield but always returns to a circular center. Halfway through, it breaks down into a sparse ballad with lovely cymbal interludes and fingerpicked electric guitar. It’s almost folk metal until Hansen's overdubbed saxophone lines emerge to cross Roxy Music with Van Der Graaf Generator. Throughout, the dialogue between musicians remains accessible to the listener; each player burrows into the next rather than expand out, revealing subtle yet still illuminating ideas, tones and textures. The bluesy intro to "Have We Mistaken the Bottle for the Whiskey Inside?" sets up Forsyth's haunted declarative vocal that rides atop increasingly dark, insistent garage rock worthy of early Pere Ubu. Snaky guitar lines, spiraling, spooky woodwind sounds, and a trance-like beat wind together and collectively push toward rock & roll catharsis. At nearly 16 minutes, the title track sounds like it begins in the middle. The band is already cooking on a nearly Motorik rhythmic vamp, with Forsyth playing short lyric phrases all over the neck to highlight the expressiveness economy can dictate when employed properly. Amid shard-like Wurlitzer stabs, a hypnotic bassline, and a snare, hi-hat, and kick drum shuffle, the guitarist begins spiking his way forward through an improvisation that cracks the margins of the tune with a wiry swing, swagger, and bite; all the while relying stubbornly on tight utterances that express themselves in concrete terms. He and Hansen duel with one another but eventually join in a prismatic climax. This breathless jam sets up the brief, skeletal, dreamy whisper of a ballad in "Two Minute Love." Dreaming in the Non-Dream is the sound of Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band breaking into the muck and mire of rock history to emerge with a communicative, dynamic language of their own design. ~ Thom Jurek