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Six Postcards: rat dreams


Rat dreams, a collective from Columbus, Ohio, give us an EP of six sound-collage tracks, inspired partly by Brian Eno’s ‘oblique strategies’ and the philosophy of Walter Benjamin. Recorded in quarantine and brought together from a collection of home recordings, it shows that isolation is no barrier for these people when they want to make great music together.

One of the rules for each participant was that they had to play at their own unique tempo. No two sounds could be alike, all having their own sense of time and place. Organising all the recordings and loops in a space that’s free from rhythm or direction, time feels like something that can be stopped and rewound, explored and searched; the sounds interacting with one another without the need to hurry to the next section or phrase.

The sounds used have the down-to-earth roots feel that comes from folk, with acoustic instrumentation and airy guitars making the rounds here. The Park Next to the Police Station uses a cheap, hand-made feel, with simplistic drum taps and textures made mostly of silence, as if originally meant as a lushly orchestrated exotica piece before the musicians pulled out. In the end, the individual parts’ refusal to come together leaves the music with only one option – to have a sort of ‘lethargic disintegration’, and who can blame them after all this time?

Their ability to smoothly blend the various timbres and everyday sounds of nature and man-made life is the key to the EP’s spiritual feel. For example, there’s something quite comforting about the percussion in Queen City & Kalamazoo, which mimics the hiss of steam from the train sounds in the background. The scuffling sound of the strings and flute in Tea Time also work to make something as humdrum and monotonous as a water-tap sound intriguing, giving it an air of mystery with the presence that it’s given. It could be interpreted as a call to be present in the moment, not taking the simple things for granted, or maybe it's just a general love of sound for its own sake. Either way, each loop is treated with a certain grace and dignity that defies a lot of the 'non-music' labels that could be applied, making each special in its own way.

This EP successfully merges music with philosophical intentions, whilst somehow remaining light on the ears. The sounds are smooth and peaceful, having an ambient charm that can cause feelings deeper than that genre implies. If you’re in a wistful mood and want to contemplate the metaphysical nature of existence for thirty minutes, then pop this on your stereo. There are only so many ways you can go wrong with something like this.

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