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  The Lathe of Heaven  
  Dream Into Dust  
  Chthonic Streams  
Release Date:
  early 2003  
Reviewed by:

Looking at the cover of this CD, i would assume that Dream Into Dust are an industrial dance band. I would lump them into a convenient category with Front Line Assembly, Front 242, and Skinny Puppy. (NOTE: Okay, so i stopped listening to this stuff in the early 90's, and my impressions of the genre are frozen in time ten years back. I think the band Apoptygma Berzerk are the band in this genre that the kids are listening to these days. Whatever.)

Popping the CD into the player, the first track features a low, rumbling synth drone of vaguely sinister tone layered deep underneath a charming synth string melody. Nicely done, but exactly what i expected. The next track sounds like the unholy lovechild of Depeche Mode and Skinny Puppy: glitched beats, hammer/construction samples looped as rhythm, strings, and overblown vocals. Right. Got it. Decent enough stuff, some moments of real niceness, but overall i just don't listen to this stuff anymore. Not bad though.

Then, just to keep me on my toes, Dream Into Dust do something unexpected, one of them picks up an acoustic guitar, and the next track features lightly strummed guitar over crunchy beats, and the vocals suddenly sound less Dave Gahan and more Thom Yorke. I really don't know if it is simply the context, or if the vocalist is using his voice slightly differently, but there is a noticeable change. This is actually a pretty good tune. The tone is Ok, Computer era Radiohead, while the music is Kid A era. Plus they add in synth strings, and a really nice drum breakdown at the end. A very nice tune, and what is even better about it is that it mixes things up. Rather than just lolling within the confines of their genre (which i want to call industrial dance, but which a quick search on AllMusic tells me is called Electronic Body Music (EBM) these days. Those wacky kids!), Dream Into Dust are keeping it contemporary and drawing in other influences. Well, a Radiohead influence, but it seems hard to escape that these days.

And they do it well. Just like How the Roses Burned (the tune i just described), the vocals really hit a level of Yorkishness on Distant Horizon. And Internal Return is a really good, loud, building, dramatic tune of the type that, while not exclusively the property of Radiohead, has been well done by them of late.

Now, that is not to say that Dream Into Dust are abandoning their EBM roots. Black Ice is a wall of grating, pulsing noise, and The Lathe of Heaven is a dark ambient piece with mopey samples from the movie of the same name. So there is variety, and on the whole, it works. I find that The Lathe of Heaven drags a bit after a while (it is 6 minutes long, which is a long time for a textureless drone and distorted vocal samples!), but the rest of it flows nicely.

I do want to point out the crowning moment on the disc, Wrong Side of the Glass. This is a tight, mid-tempoed rocker. Electronic noises simmer in the background, but the guitar is nice and distorted. The voice is different, i am not sure if someone else sings this one, but a good vocal reference point is Bauhaus-era Peter Murphy. Not that this voice is deep and rich like Murphy's, but the style of enunciation hits the tense, almost neurotic, tones that Murphy used so well. The end of this song though, is what makes it so magnificent. After rocking along lightly with guitar plucking and deep drumming, it all cuts loose, the drummer really wailing on what sounds to me like those big kettle drums (love those things -- awesome sound! -- this is probably a sample though), and the guitar kicks in the overdrive. Lovely. This actually carries over quite well into the next track, No World Outside, which is held together by those same lovely drums. Good stuff.

Overall, i am impressed with this disc, although i never expected to be. Dream Into Dust have some very good musical ideas, and they certainly have both the musicianship and the production skills to carry their ideas out. If you are an EBM fan, i heartily endorse this CD. If you are a rabid Radiohead fan, then this is also a good purchase due to that prominent reference point. Otherwise, well, it's a little dark and pretentious at times, but it is well done, and certainly worth a listen.

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