Imagine being sucked into a huge wind tunnel as pulsating vibrations smother you — and having the experience prove very pleasant. Welcome to dream pop, the latest branch of British alternative rock. Dream pop could be called postmodern New Age, but there’s a welcome difference. In this aural massage, the guitars are distorted and layered, the songs seamless drones, the voices buried in murk. It’s the soundtrack of a generation that has been pummeled by too much media and too many dead-end social options, and would prefer to lose itself in massive pillows of sound.
Singer-guitarist Miki Berenyi of Lush is part of that crowd; ”It’s just a game/All just the same,” she sighs on Spooky the band’s bracing second album. She sounds a little overwhelmed, and the music reflects her tone: the spatial guitars and madrigal vocals combine for an otherworldly, vacuum-packed sound — Valium with a kick. Rougher but equally hypnotic is Ride’s sullen third album, Going Blank Again, which opens with eight minutes of tidal-wave guitar and vocal harmonies. The album sustains that gothic mood, as singer-guitarist Mark Gardener sounds perfectly at home chanting lyrics such as ”A drowsy line of wasted time/Bathes my open mind.”
By its nature, dream pop risks being sleepy. On Doppelgänger, Curve couches singer Toni Halliday’s frisky voice in waves of bristling guitar, yet the club rhythms and homogenized production tend to make Curve sound like a spacier version of Eurythmics. Zombielike is one thing, brain-dead another. Spooky: A-; Going Blank Again: B+; Doppelganger: C