A hyperreal simulacra of alternate futures imagined and abandoned, Time For Dreams’ sophomore LP is a ‘must listen’ for fans of Cocteau Twins and Massive Attack

Article by Cormac O’Síocháin 

Time For Dreams’ dub-synth electro-pop is the product of Melbourne duo Amanda Roff and Tom Carlyon. Their incendiary 2017 ‘In Time’ debut built upon the lost soul industrial perv-pop of producer/multi-instrumentalist Tom Standish’s former act Standish/Carlyon, 2013 album ‘Deleted Scenes’ representing an unparalleled achievement in sultry sonic sadism. Dark, heavy and dreamy, it provides something of a foil for Time For Dreams alternate dimensional explorations.

…before we continue, though, let’s get this out of the way: I wanted “more of the same” from Time For Dreams. Their debut LP remains staunchly in my Top Ten Australian LPs from the past decade. In fact, I’d venture to call it a personal Top Ten of the century so far – no other contemporary Aussie act’s record has received so many well-deserved listens.

That 2017 LP took the desert island dream of Standish/Carlyon to an exotic, multi-hued, more feminine space which, while not exactly androgynous, was less overtly dosed with testosterone. If that represented something akin to submergence into alternate realities of asynchronous plurally gendered liminal space, ‘Life of the Inhabitant’ brings everything back together into a black/white, fe/male, monolithic dead stare sublimation of our shared apocalypse-in-motion.

Whilst comparisons to Cocteau Twins or Kate Bush are somewhat de rigeur, songs such as ‘A World Of Your Own’ inhabit a similar plain of ebullient detachment – “I don’t care but I wish I did but really I’m okay that I don’t”. Similarly, elements of trip-hop akin to genre heavyweights Massive Attack and even Portishead come to mind – not so much for the sound itself, but for the serpentine dark femininity inherent in the sound; a detached minimalist fragility which is desperately forlorn but vaguely hopeful.

Whilst ‘Death To All Actors’ is reminiscent of the band’s earlier work, there is a breathless staccato pulse beneath the surface which denies the narcotic escapism of those early days, replacing it with a somewhat confrontational sense of hyperventalised angst. Frayed at the edges and about to catch fire, this feels like sanity in freefall. That existential sense of delicious chaotic dread found in Paul Bowles’ ‘The Sheltering Sky’ comes to mind; there is something universal, eternal and reassuringly ominous about the serpentine desert wanderings of tracks such as the eponymous ‘Life Of The Inhabitant’.

New Conflict Dream

Much of this is down to the production; wide open dreamy synth pads and ‘verbed-out guitars wash across tense claustrophobic beats. Jagged splintered textures, drones and piano keys likewise provide a push/pull sense of dissolution and refracted light. Indeed, the mixing and production choices on this record essentially function as an instrument in their own right; once again Cocteau Twins come to mind, with the panoramic physicality of sound providing a galaxy of resonance throughout.

Outside the Citadel

Album closer ‘Outside The Citadel’ represents an entirely new direction for the band; there’s a post-cyberpunk aura of willful dissolution here. Tangerine Dream meets Paul Verhoeven in an underground post-collapse discotheque: let’s dance.

Finishing the album in such a way is a bold step – with a sound somewhere akin to desert-dwelling Italo Disco meets grim synthwave lushness, it’s a psychedelic Western soundtrack for the apocalypse generation. It may represent our protagonist trekking out to the wasteland as the final credits roll – or it may be a taste of things to come, the New World finally designed, ready for habitation.

Regardless of whether this represents a fresh direction or merely an abandonment of the bunker prior to reinvention, it provides closure – “more of the same” is no longer desired, nor possible – our only option is to go forward towards whatever the future holds.

Life of the Inhabitant is out now via Melbourne’s it Records.

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Article by Cormac O’Síocháin 

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