Lucid Dreaming (Emperor Jones)

Tim Green seems like the kind of guy who likes a full plate of food, preferably filled with delicacies from several different restaurants. Locally, he's well known as an innovative Renaissance man with a wide range of interests and little difficulty keeping himself busy. Besides his work as a sought-after studio engineer (with credits ranging from Bratmobile to the Melvins), he's participated in a series of accomplished musical projects that, on the surface, seem to have little to do with one another.

As a founding member of early '90s Washington, D.C., punk revivalists Nation of Ulysses, Green combined his raw guitar work with Ian Svenonius' irony-laden manifestoes to satirize a stagnant hardcore scene caught up in personal politics and metal-leaning production values. After relocating to San Francisco in the mid-'90s, Green did a musical about-face, joining the Fucking Champs, a blistering guitar-and-drums trio that pays tribute to the progressive metal of the '80s by eschewing vocals and guitar wanking for tight song structures and non-ironic technical proficiency. (The Fucking Champs' fifth album, V, is out now on Drag City.)

In between his regular bands, Green has amassed a collection of solo recordings centering around his homemade and vintage analog synthesizers. Recently, he's begun releasing these minimalist electronic compositions under the name Concentrick. Lucid Dreaming, Concentrick's second full-length, showcases Green's exploration of early ambient music, regularly referencing pioneers like Brian Eno and Cluster. Featuring occasional cellos and flutes, the album frequently switches modes from lush melodies to droney synthesized hums, sometimes using metronomic drum machine beats.

By definition, ambient music runs the risk of being cold and clinical, keeping a discreet distance between itself and its listeners. Dreaming, however, is engaging throughout. Rather than feeling remote, the songs make a connection with the audience, proving capable of immersing listeners in their somber world. The tracks “Lucid Moments” and “Listen Darkly” establish the moody tone of the album by repeating minor-key melodies, gradually overlaying simple yet effective string and flute arrangements. The sinister “Behind the Trees” builds tension, as a pulsing drone does battle with subdued electronic squeals, and the synthesizer stabs of “Sinking Slowly” and “Falling Stars” seem to hint at a dystopian future.

Concentrick's success hinges on the same paradox that runs through much of Green's work, a combination of reverential revival and ambitious innovation. The end result is a record that effectively captures the essence of early ambient music while recognizing the importance of what has come since.

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