Album review: “A Dream of Time” by ‘Kay, a unique instrumental experience.

a dream of time

This is a pretty unusual thing–in fact this is the first time I’ve ever done a full-on album review on my site, but I’m doing it for two reasons. First, the artist in question, ‘Kay from Germany, is a one-man band, and he happens to be a friend of mine. (That’s a disclosure as well). Second, I liked the album, A Dream of Time, very much, and I found it quite surprising on a number of levels. It’s not a heavy metal album nor even close, and many years ago I used to review metal albums for a number of different metal publications. I estimate it’s been at least 8 years since I’ve done any kind of music review. But A Dream of Time, which is available for download here, is definitely worth a listen.

‘Kay is the project of my friend Karl who lives in northern Germany, and whose heavy metal project, Rekator, I featured several months ago. (Karl also took these awesome photos of the Wacken Open Air site in winter). I knew he was working on an instrumental polygenre album but knew very little about it until recently. Not long ago he sent me a link to a promotional/press version, and I was quite impressed. A Dream of Time is mostly electronica with some guitar, all instrumental, but defies any easy characterization which is why the term “polygenre” is probably the least ill-fitting term. It’s kind of an audio rumination, quite introspective, quite moody, but with a lot of very catchy melodies and a very atmospheric vibe. If you’ve ever gone hiking in a forest in northern Europe, the emotional character of A Dream of Time will feel very familiar to you.

The first track, “Orion,” begins with the sound of footfalls crunching in a forest, and then ramps up with some very subdued and distant-sounding guitars. A couple of melodies play in and out of each other, involving synth sounds as well as guitars. “Call of the Void” sounds almost outer-spacey. Its cold repeated melody has me imagining a pod of some kind tumbling through space, ever in search of some sort of contact that may never come. Indeed it’s this track that begins to engage the listener’s emotions. I have the sense of a journey being taken, very determined and heartfelt at times, but of uncertain destination or even purpose. There are some slightly jazzy rhythms, some moody ones, and refrains hauntingly repeated.

Karl, the guy behind ‘Kay, talks about the completion of his album in this recent YouTube video.

“Cityscape,” the fourth track, begins with some subdued road/car noises, but then veers into that sort of curious outer-spacey vibe that characterized “Call of the Void.” Strangely this track reminded me of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 science fiction masterpiece film Solaris, as it has kind of a ’70s vibe to it. The warbling synth on this track repeats numerous times throughout the album. The two central tracks of the album, “A Dream of Time Part II” and “Part II,” move through various movements which sound definitely like something out of the 1970s, at times having me imagine some guys jamming in an old carpet-covered VW bus. The melody that opens “Part II” is the most beautiful and haunting on the album, in my opinion. Sometimes Karl’s wandering experimentation with various musical styles takes you briefly off-track, but he usually returns to the melody at hand. In a way the experimentation is probably a backbone of the concept here. It certainly results in some fascinating variations, like the beginning of the final track, “Timefall.”

A Dream of Time is a very interesting, thoughtful and bold experiment in electronica and guitar. I could easily imagine it being the soundtrack of some cutting-edge indie movie. For one guy producing this album out of his bedroom on a computer, the production quality is crystal clear and top-notch. It goes to show you how far audio technology has come in a short time. Not so long ago somebody who wanted to do an album like this would come out with something that should be titled “My First Casio.” A Dream of Time is way, way beyond that milieu.

I don’t usually listen to electronica, and I would certainly not, under normal circumstances, seek out an album billed as “polygenre.” That’s why it was a pleasant surprise that I ended up liking this album as much as I did. You should definitely give it a try. If you want a taste, go to this link and you can preview some of the tracks. Nice work, Karl!

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