In many ways, Dreamweaver, the latest release from Toronto’s Animal Party, resembles a lucid trip through one’s dream journal; the passage of time is indiscernible, specific details blend together, background becomes foreground, and so forth. As the solo project of Dublin-born Sinéad Bermingham, Animal Party draws limitless inspiration from the unconscious world of the dream, creating vast, lush electro-pop soundscapes that fuse sparse drum machines and woozy synths with acoustic guitar and harp.
Guiding the listener with soft, breathy vocals, Bermingham acts as a guide through her mind’s cavernous depths, weaving in and out of narratives of escaping the physical limitations of our bodies and communicating with the natural world. Album opener “Mountains,” begins with bright, clinking synths slowly setting the scene for subtle additions of harp glissandos, layered in with individually plucked strings, which replace the original synth melody. Abstract lyrics such as, “For when I die, it’s just the same/I’ve still got mountains in my veins,” introduce the illusory themes found throughout Dreamweaver. For Animal Party, the natural and human world do not exist separately or in isolation from each other, but rather share a life source, existing and moving through each other.
According to Bermingham, “Animal Party paints imagery of natural phenomena, relating to the human condition and her own personal experience,” which plays a major role in shaping her music. This theme of the relationship between natural and human states not only manifests itself through lyrical elements, such as, islands “speaking” to Bermingham as her “shell has been shattered” (hinting at the unity of nature and the human body), but also musical elements like the blending of acoustic and electronic instruments.
Made from natural elements such as, wood or metal, the acoustic piano and harp that appear throughout the album both literally and melodically work in harmony with the artificial (human) sounds originating from the drum machines and various electronics. Within the compositions, certain melodies are played first on piano then subsequently mirrored by synths (“Aurora”), or oftentimes, Bermingham will prefer the textures to blend seamlessly, like on the verses and bridge of “Dusk Halo” or title track “Dreamweaver.” Of course, the synthesis of acoustic and electronic sounds is as old as the first synthesizers, but when the kinship between nature and artifice largely informs a work, this musical relationship signifies more than just personal taste.
By the album’s second half, Bermingham’s compositions and textures become overly repetitive, with a few later tracks, specifically “Coloured Dust” and “Other Galaxies,” treading familiar dreamy territory. As for the beats, save for “Dusk Halo” or “Aurora,” the thin, often sparse rhythms, seem scattered and lack the energy required to sustain many of the track’s lengths, half of them running over four minutes.
Nevertheless, Animal Party’s Dreamweaver acts as a soundtrack for one’s escape into the unconscious, mixing electronic and acoustic textures for an ethereal, atmospheric electro-pop journey.
Top Tracks: “Mountains”; “Dreamweaver”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)