Psychic TV - Dreams Less Sweet LP
Label: Angry Love Productions
Dreams Less Sweet is the 1983 second album from Psychic TV following the demise of Throbbing Gristle, and this remains a favorite document from the entire post-TG catalog. It almost reads as a companion piece to TG's 20 Jazz Funk Greats in that it invites unusually accessible chamber folk and pop tropes into their sound only to subversively twist them into something much more sinister. Recorded using Zuccarelli Holophonic technology to create an atmospheric spatiality of near and faraway sounds (this is a headphones record if there ever was one!), the group was then able to record in some very unusual places like The Hellfire Club Caves (a notorious British site of aristocratic Satanic liturgies and hedonistic ritual) and take advantage of the systems 3D effect. The album's mixture of sweetness and light with ritual creep and foreboding is at once beautiful and deeply unsettling and on first listen it's hard to decipher what you are hearing and its mystery still beguiles, many years later. We're invited in by the melancholy pastoral chamber pop of "The Orchids" with its vibraphone, guitar and oboe and Genesis' dueling vocals welcoming the morning light in innocent VU "Sunday Morning" fashion. But then the totality of the album swings from hallowed reverence to eldritch mysticism and from remotely animalistic to eerily brutal and back again mimicking the cycle of a day or a season as it moves between songs and strange far-off occult musique concrete. There are lots of guest appearances both real and invoked. Monte Cazazza is heard reciting lyrics over the phone, and one can hear John Balance of Coil getting a tattoo. There is an angelic choirboy singing a Charles Manson song, and most notably on the track "White Nights," a sweet Christmas-y pop number with lyrics lifted wholesale from Jim Jones final sermon at Jonestown. Throughout, bells intone, chants are muttered, a lot of acoustic exotic instruments are played with atmospheric intentions more than melodic ones. But the full power of the collective's brutal aural abilities culminates in the penultimate track - "In The Nursery" - which invokes fairytale symbolism and ritual and industrial soundscapes in a nightmarish blend of hellish terror. Exquisite.