By Rick Shithouse
I still feel guilty for not giving the review that LA Dreams' last record, On And On, deserved on Synthetix.FM. It came out at an odd time for me personally to give my undivided attention to and will hopefully remain the only LA Dreams realease not covered on here. It's not that the album was any less valid, relevant and entertaining than any others, it was just some poor timing on my behalf.
And true to form, another LA Dreams record has arrived right on schedule. I've been enjoying Paper Objects on repeat pretty much since it hit Bandcamp this afternoon and have had ample opportunity to drink in its delights and revel in its glories. One of the grounding aspects for me is my personal relationship with LA Dreams' music on an emotional level. His music is truly magical when it aligns to my own personal state of being. This happens more often than not; but on this record especially the depth of emotional attachment I've felt throughout has been incredibly strong. Sometimes things just sit 'right' and that familiarity feels all brand new again and with Paper Objects, LA Dreams has once more upped his game and taken on new challenges for the sake of his art.
With the announcement of the album's release LA Dreams also stated this was his first all hardware album. I read this after listening to the record a few times already and I had already noticed something different about the presentation of the music. I'm no audio engineer, I don't even qualify as someone who has tinkered with synths; be they hardware or software but there is something I definitely noticed as being different to the usual LA Dreams synthscape. This could all be psychosomatic and reading far too much into things I don't understand but there is an elegance to this album that is a cut above what I previously experienced in LA Dreams' music. The soul of the 80s and the true creative gift this artist instills in his music just comes through smoother, cleaner and more natural. This could be completely unrelated to using hardware exclusively on the record and it may just be his natural progression along his musical journey but the increased intimacy and smoothness to the presentation is undeniable.
LA Dreams' is a complete maestro for that quintessential 80s melody that I personally adore and feel deeply when I hear it. The way that LA Dreams has evolved his writing in this respect is defined even more in Paper Objects. Melodies and leads feel more balanced in the mix, they never get lost or seem like they fighting to be heard amongst the other instruments and the percussion appears to have been distilled into much more simplistic patterns, that when coupled with the melodies become live and effortless and wholly complementary.
I've been saying for nearly years now that I listen to LA Dreams differently than I do to almost any other producer. The way his ideas are put together to me make absolute sense and over the course of his many albums I've witnessed the growth and nurturing he gives to his musical inspirations. Ideas hinted at from albums months ago resurfaced with more defined reason and forms. The melodies gain more lither shapes and curves that flow even more naturally. The soul of LA Dreams music is what drives each track and each compartmentalised idea becomes a snapshot of the man himself in that moment in time translated into music.
The album itself is full of melodic poems, energetic excitement and heartfelt emotion. In many of the classic Synth Romance pieces by LA Dreams you can feel the magic touching you, like a bolt of nostalgic electricity. These types of tracks, especially, appear to move through spaces with lighter weight yet have even more presence. The experimentation with certain sounds in these heavily stripped back affairs gives even more intrigue and detail, but they are never cluttered and in many ways deliver slower and deeper hooks. 'Makes Me Think Of You' and 'Frome Here To There' are shining examples of this as LA Dreams rocks to a pace that is transfixing and beautifully formulated.
Higher energy experiences abound too and a couple of tracks that really stood out for me on this record belonged to this aesthetic. In 'LoveShy' LA Dreams rocks a wonderful vocal over funky and dramatic musical majesty. I was only saying on a recent Synthetix Sundays that this kind of vocal is so underutilised in the scene, LA Dreams displays to perfection just how little touches can add so very, very much. The opening track 'Strange Skies' makes for a fast paced adventure into 80s musical excitement too while 'Paper Cities' combines soulfully enriching melodies with a highly excitable beat that just swells with romantic anticipation.
LA Dreams keeps on exploring funkier sides to his sounds too, which I'm an ardent fan of, and 'Nights Like This' brings a totally killer mix of funk and synth soul. This style in particular holds many new and exciting avenues in the LA Dreams experience and gives him another synthscape for him to paint his wonderful stories on.
When it gets down to it, this is a fantastic album. If you love LA Dreams you'll find lots to love on Paper Objects. The intrinsic mix of old and new and that familiar atmosphere LA Dreams creates is always so invigorating to experience. LA Dreams has always been 'music for lovers' to me and the fantasy and captivating romance that flows so prominently and effortlessly through this record will awaken your heart and passions once again.
I've been musing on the title of the album for much of the day and it finally came to my own realisation as to why this title was chosen. Many things near and dear to us are exactly this, notes from loved ones, greeting card, photographs, tickets to places and events experienced, paper objects that we keep with us and hold as connections to people, places and times. In the context of this record those paper objects from the 80s are some of our most personally valued. Well chosen, LA Dreams, well chosen words indeed.
Thank you, LA Dreams for giving the world an unbreakable emotional link to the wonder of 80s synth music. LA Dreams presents his Paper Objects album on his Bandcamp page here, and this album comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.