Ken Camden - Dream Memory

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:8 Release Date:2015-06-16

One of most delightful things about Ken Camden's new album Dream Memory, besides its supremely cliched title, is how well it illustrates the vast array of ambient styles extant these days. One might be forgiven for occasionally assuming all ambient music is created more or less equal. But this masterwork takes the listener on a journey through a number of sub-genres, really more of a history lesson, which is fairly remarkable considering how ambient albums can sometimes slip into a rut.

The album begins fairly innocuously, with the simple cathedral tones of 'Adenosine', strongly reminiscent of Aphex Twin's work on Selected Ambient Works Volume II, transitioning into a classic buzzing electrodrone that takes one back to the 1970s beginnings of ambient music. The second track, 'Time Bend', is more of a burbling, spinning piece, in the style of very early Orb.

A number of tracks, notably 'Renewal', have something of an eastern flavor to the instrumentation, making this not just a universe-spanning but globe-spanning work. 'Curiosity', meanwhile, has more of a playful, almost goofy sound with its quirky synthwork. 

'The Melatonin Chamber' uses some extremely archaic sound effects, very similar to Raymond Scott's brilliant but mostly unknown electronic experimentation from the 1960s. I kept expecting a voice over to begin proclaiming the wonders of building a moonbase.

The title track is loaded with heavily reverbing, echoing synths, working through variations on the theme before everything starts to fade, getting farther and farther away until there's a feeling of being lost in space. A very 1980s feeling is evoked, bringing to mind things like Kraftwerk and Doctor Who. This track also sounds like a slightly spacier Ray Lynch song.

The album closes with 'Asleep at the Wheel'; it's Camden as his most austere: a cold, harsh piece of electric ice that sounds straight off Dilate's massive double album, Octagon. This is a song to get lost in, a drifting, spacey track backed by long, buzzing pads that also brings to mind Lightwave circa Tycho Brahe.

Overall, this is a work of remarkable depth and breadth, spanning decades, continents, and galaxies. Camden seems confortable trying on all of ambient music's outfits, and excels in all of them. This album is easy to recommend for anyone craving high-quality ambient bliss.

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