I was sick a lot as a kid. I spent the week of Christmas 1976 in an oxygen tent with Pneumonia. I was three. My parents found out a couple years later I had severe allergies which was what brought on all the respiratory issues I was suffering from. That led to allergy shots and an uptick in my health, though I’d still get Bronchitis and upper respiratory infections at least two or three times a year.
During these times of illness I’d have the most detailed and lucid dreams. Some were dreams while others were nightmares, but they were all very detailed. A lot of them involved vast, open spaces and abandoned castles where I’d wander for what felt like days(mostly the last 10 minutes of sleep.) There were also dreams where disembodied light in human form would take the place of my parents. It was as if television static had escaped the Zenith console and formed into human shape. Swing sets that reached the clouds and I’d look down and see my backyard as if it was a satellite photo of earth.
When I listen to Hawksmoor’s new album Methods of Dreaming all of those strange, Lynch-ian fever dreams come back to me. The hazy waves of the moog, soft synths, processed guitars, and bass all come together in a hypnotic sort of way. They seem to bring those subconscious dream memories back to the surface. It’s a welcome portal to fears and desires I couldn’t understand as a child.
You don’t have to have been sick and paranoid as a child to find emotional connective tissue here with Hawksmoor’s(aka James McKeown) dense and heady sound world. You can just throw some hefty Koss headphones over your ears, hit play, and take that seriously heady drop into Method of Dreaming’s sound world. It’s like a portal back to 1972 and those strange and wonderful Tangerine Dream concerts that would take place in centuries-old abandoned churches and among the German wilderness. This is a gorgeously ‘lost in analog’ record. The perfect coming together of mind and magic.
McKeown did some serious research in making this album. According to McKeown, “My research unearthed a paper by Prof. R.J. Bennett of the Milton Keynes Institute for Neurological Dream Research, published in 1979 and titled ‘Methods of Dreaming’. In it, he details his investigations into the methods of invoking dream states, lucid dreaming and harnessing dream logic. This document effectively provided a guidebook for achieving expansion of consciousness, cerebral escape and transcendence, becoming the inspiration behind the creation of this music.”
Listening to Hawksmoor “dream” record, you do feel as if you’re falling into a sort of dream state. “Into Algeria” buzzes with a low, soothing tone that invokes a dark peacefulness. There’s a cinematic quality here as well, giving the impression of opening a book and digging into that first page. “Strict Parallels” is kinetic and busy in its nature, as if you’re falling down the rabbit hole. With the bass and guitar there’s a prog rock vibe here as well. It’s not all heady synth swaths. Hawksmoor captures the TD and Klaus Schulze vibes perfectly, but there’s elements of Goblin and Mike Oldfield as well. Title track “Methods of Dreaming” is very much all hazy, dream-like synth, gorgeously lit in 70s black light and electro synth scores.
“Seraphim” is the epic journey here at over 8 minutes of reverberating synth and cognitive mind melding. It’s a sonic soup of LSD dreams and sensory deprivation tank discoveries. It’s like Pink Floyd’s Meddle but turned inside out and dropped in a wormhole for Sinoia Caves to discover on the other side. Except James McKeown beat Jeremy Schmidt to the punch.
McKeown creates this massive sonic world on Methods of Dreaming. It feels very much like a classic prog rock album that was just recently discovered. A concept record not of dragons, fairy tales, and future space wars, but an album that takes us thru the psyche of the human mind. Early traumas and sunlit afternoons repurposed in our dreams into something not quite understandable, but visceral in its affect on us. Hawksmoor has given us a record to fall into and dissect for many more dreams to come.
9.0 out of 10
Methods of Dreaming is available now via Spun Out Of Control. Buy it here.