[Album Review] Alex Calder- Strange Dreams
3.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)


Release Date: January 20th, 2015
Captured Tracks

Edmonton has spawned its fair share of musical weirdoes (Born Gold comes to mind), so Mac DeMarco and Alex Calder just happen to be a couple of the more well-known ones. They played together in Vancouver’s  Makeout Videotape but have gone their separate ways since (creatively at least – they both seem to be based in Montreal now, however). Not surprisingly there are some similarities in their musical approach, particularly in their vocalizing, but where DeMarco is more of the goofy, outgoing, slacker pal, Calder is more introverted and frankly kinda crazy.

‘Strange Dreams’ may not be the most original choice of album titles but it couldn’t be more appropriate in this instance. I’m not sure whether these songs are based on actual dreams of his, but they sure could be the soundtrack to a few of mine. Essentially this is a collection of demented and distorted shoegaze. Some of the tracks, such as the title track, “Out of My Head” and “Marcel”, are fairly conventionally arranged and even boast quite hummable choruses (reminiscent of Kurt Vile at times). However, the majority of the tracks are loosely structured if they have any structure at all (consider the ambient twinkling and distant vocals on “The Morning”).

Calder has a penchant for guitar loops and they often form the basis of his songs. His vocals are rarely recorded ‘straight’ – they are more often indistinct, processed and pushed back in the mix. Layer on that some electronic noodling, reverb, and sound alteration — all of which may lead you to suspect that some lysergic maniac snuck in and sabotaged the engineer’s soundboard. It’s all to great effect, though, given the central conceit of the album. True to Calder’s intention, I’m sure, the record winds up as an echoic soundscape where emotions and experiences are only partially remembered.

Stylistically, there is a certain lack of variety here and no doubt someone less enamoured of his trippy style will find the sameness a tad tedious. However, for those of us who can totally relate to his somnambulant ramblings it’s 45 minutes well dreamt…er, spent.