NEU ORPHEUS AND EVAN A. JAMES “It Is All a Great Strange Dream” (Adhesive Sounds)

Fractions of experience. Split evenly, It Is All a Great Strange Dream is 5.5 “tracks” each by Neu Orpheus (formerly Albino Deers) and Evan A. James (formerly a very hip cat with releases, currently a very hip cat with releases). It’s actually a 5-to-6 split, but half is half, and my calculator ain’t lying. The top half, “A” if you will, is surprising trek through neo-urban R&B samplage, surprising because Albino Deers existed as a much more ambient entity, content to let drift rule the verbiage when discussing his vibe. Here, as Neu Orpheus, there is no drift, only action. The gentle thump of drum tracks, the liquid bass, the tinny sheen around the treble setting suggesting the warped edges of vaporwave (this is an Adhesive Sounds release after all) combine for a smooth ride, broken only by the track shifts. Vocal samples don’t overwhelm, all suggesting the titular “strange dream,” which constantly shifts under Neu Orpheus’s deft manipulation. I keep wanting to say “Norpheus” in my head, a constant image of Morpheus from The Matrix the result, and I wonder about taking that red pill before listening to this. Or was that the blue pill? I never remember. I just ate a bunch of pills.

Clean break to B. Six tracks of Evan A. James going the opposite route, much wispier and more incorporeal than usual. Languid tones, keyboards through mist, and strings promote the “strange dream,” where marveling at oddities as they pass through your field of vision is the only logical response. James uses his half to build the aural equivalent of the perfect dreamworld, part Kirby (without the crackling samples), part Carroll (without the manic Disnification), all a complete experience where the surreal holds a dominating purchase. It’s the perfect counterpoint to Neu Orpheus’s half, a rabbit hole through which you slip further into the depths of slumber, the heavy, deep REM stasis where it’s impossible to tell that the dream is a dream. It’s all real there, the experience, half of the musical artifact documenting the helplessness of being immersed in this state. Both halves do that actually – the great strange dream stretches ever onward, into infinity, and its soundtrack repeats.

--Ryan Masteller