Chris Forsyth will begin a massive tour of the United Kingdom and mainland Europe next month with his Solar Motel Band, supporting their critically acclaimed album Dreaming In The Non-Dream. [...]
Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band
The idea that rock music ever pretended to promise ‘transcendence’ is ridiculous, or at least it seems so under present conditions. Leaving aside the obvious question even (‘transcendence’ of what?), the idea seems archaic, optimistic in a way that’s hard to access in the Trump/Brexit era. Chris Forsyth’s music is too kinetically aware, too intelligent, and frankly too goddamn punk to make any such outsized promises, but also nearly impossible to hear without considering the idea. Because as sure as Dreaming In The Non-Dream is subject to all the dread pressures that have contorted us all of late —it would be a drab mistake to call this a “political record,” but also straight-up lazy to miss its subtle cues— it offers . . .one won’t say a “way out,” exactly (hardly), but something along the lines of a way through. It’s a record that conveys ecstasy as surely as Pharoah Sanders does, or the Velvet Underground did.
In this respect, it’s hard to imagine who Forsyth’s contemporaries might be. But then it’s always been this way: the greats tend to feel a little out-of-plumb with their moment (only hindsight lets us see it otherwise), and Forsyth’s music has been sparring with some large forces from the beginning. He’s always united the homely with the astral, the abstract with the visceral in his Solar Motels and Intensity Ghosts. There’s something different about Dreaming In The Non-Dream, though. There’s a fresh economy involved here, a sense, strange as this is to say about a record with two songs longer than eleven minutes, of not a note wasted. Despite psychedelic leanings, Forsyth’s records have always trained toward concision — plenty of space, yet never slack— but these tunes erupt with startling swiftness, then spend the rest of their quick-burning lives teasing multiple moods and patterns out of relatively simple materials. “History & Science Fiction” pads in on the back of a slinky, almost shy, bass line, then —after a little blast of glassy percussion— hurls us about a mile into the air before arriving, startlingly, at a saxophone arrangement (!) that evokes early Roxy Music. The title track seems to gene-splice two of the great minimalist themes, Pere Ubu’s “Heart of Darkness” and Neu’s “Hallogallo,” into one surging, winding, pulsing ride: Music For Speeding Tickets. Even the pensive, aqueous “Two Minutes Love,” which sounds a bit like something Ry Cooder could’ve written for the Paris, Texas soundtrack troubled by ghosts both placid and deranged, does a lot —really, a lot— with barely more than a whisper.
Those titles, though. It’s hard not to notice that “History & Science Fiction” might refer to the intersection we’re all standing at now, pinned by the consequences of the former and living, abruptly, within the latter; “Two Minutes Love” inverts Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate” from 1984; as for the title track, well, that utilitarian “non-dream” could just as well be a euphemism for nightmare. But it’s “Have We Mistaken The Bottle For The Whiskey Inside?” that’s most explicit. Over a prowling, stabbing, Stones-ish backdrop —one that, naturally, will accelerate itself into something different— Forsyth sings about, well, transcendence: about “los(ing) my senses” and the suspension of self-judgment, about the gaps between ideation and execution, and, of course, between container and content. Perhaps the most canny thing about Forsyth’s music is how little explanation he’s willing to attach to it. Not out of coyness, or any need to gin up a little mystery: there just isn’t any need for it. When the whiskey’s this strong, who needs a bottle at all?
– Matthew Specktor