The Lucid Dream: Actualisation (Holy Are You Recordings)

Carlisle alchemists deliver stunning, genre-melding new set

Released Oct 19th, 2018 via Holy Are You Recordings / By Richard Lewis
The Lucid Dream: Actualisation (Holy Are You Recordings) Defined as ‘making real or giving the appearance of reality’ Actualisation, the fourth LP by Carlisle denizens The Lucid Dream sees the quartet serve up their finest, most ambitious record to date. A group who have never made the same record twice, the word salad (c’mon, its music journalism!) necessary to describe the band’s sound at this juncture, now stretches to psych/dub/shoegazing/acid house/Kosmiche/space rock. Far from being unwieldy however, not only do all of the genre tags apply but the quartet take elements of each to create something of their own.

The gleeful relish of unleashing banging Acid House inspired lead single SX1000 replete with Psych Traitors badges at gigs further underlines that the ‘Dream have travelled this far on their own terms and will continue doing whatever they want. Featuring seven tracks (excellent provenance: two albums which influenced the present act, Can’s Ege Bamyasi and Suicide’s eponymous debut both featured as many), Actualisation was written by singer/guitarist Mark Emmerson utilizing only vintage Roland 303/808 synths, bass and vocals.

While there is an increased focus on the groove, melody is something hardwired into the current band as the tunes remain in earshot now matter how many curveballs the outfit throw. The approach The Lucid Dream have always brought to recording also stays the same, making the songs as expansive and uncluttered as possible with the space allowing the music room to breathe. The bracing rush of nine minute techno-punk barrage Alone In Fear opens the LP in belligerent fashion. A stomping Underworld-esque banger, the track fizzes with malevolent energy, its state of the nation Brexit address covering how the UK is well on our way to a new tension headache.

Easing off the tempo Zenith (part 1) initially opens with the chilly atmosphere of Joy Division as re-imagined by Cabaret Voltaire. Cleverly plaiting two drum machine patterns that begin offbeat but slowly merge together, the arrival of the guitars, bass and drums two minutes in along with a melodica motif creates the effect of sunlight entering the room. Similar to possibly the ‘Dream’s best known song Bad Texan which held off introducing the vocals for three minutes, the slow burn technique works excellently.

Seguing directly into the brief, brilliant Part 2, the cut showcases how the band have definitively arrived at their own style. The dub bassline, Italian house piano, 808 drum machine, washes of psychedelic guitar and Mark Emmerson’s confident lead vocals combine to create an excellent single. The video sees them decked out in white Hazmat suits in front of flickering cathode ray tube TVs as The Lucid Dream Broadcast System, a Threads-style apocalypse piece beamed straight out of the nuclear bunker. Beginning with a noise reminiscent of the emergency destruction siren from Alien that Ripley sets off before abandoning ship, aforementioned audacious first single SX1000 follows, pounding along like a classic white label 12”.

If the most notable development on the band’s previous LP Compulsion Songs was the vocals being placed higher in the mix, something which happily has become a mainstay, the basslines are one of the standout elements of Actualisation. Mike Denton’s four string work pushes the songs forward with inventive, melodic foundation lines, with Ardency a case in point. Backed by the pinpoint beats of Luke Anderson and the swirling soundscpaes of guitarist/keys player Wayne Jefferson, the track opens with cathedral-like organ and soft pattering cymbals, the bassline pushes it into a pulsating groove like something from the Hacienda’s dancefloor circa 1988. The nearest thing here to straight up psychedelia Breakdown swerves away from being standard issue space rock as its cavern deep wah-wah guitar and guttural bassline, re-routes it to somewhere more intriguing.

With dub now an integral part of their sound, album closer No Sunlight Dub is seven minutes of beautifully poised echoing guitar chords and sampled handclaps that makes a brief excursion into drum and bass and hip-hop before returning to its main theme, concluding Actualisation with its strongest moment. A genre scanning triumph, ten years since their formation The Lucid Dream continue their ascent. And the ‘reality’ hinted at in the title? It’s that this is one of 2018’s best albums. 9/10