The most profound insights can flit across the mind between
conscious and subconscious states. Remembering, let alone conveying these
fleeting manifestations, can be even more challenging than dream recreation.
Todd Gautreau seems to have assumed this task as a life quest. Via his Crushed
Stars project, and the more electronically-based Sonogram, he pieces elements
into audio pictures that often match or eclipse anything that’s happening in
the Dream Pop genre.
Much of Gautreau’s output could be a soundtrack for Rene
Magritte’s illustrations of subconscious meanderings and emotions. At least
aspects of his work enlarge upon the minimalist explorations of Erik Satie, who
called himself a phonometrician, or “someone who measures sound.” As Crushed
Stars, Gautreau’s palette includes acoustic and electric guitars, his voice
(the timbre of which he adjusts to accommodate expression), electronic and
digital elements, and a rainbow of “alternative” or Progressive Rock effects. His increasing ability to intuitively collage
elements from this palette was evidenced by Cubists,
his 2011 Sonogram release.
The last thing listeners should expect is to be obviously or
immediately staggered by Gautreau’s music. In
the Bright Rain opens with the fecklessly familiar structures of two tracks
that could have been incorporated into recent efforts by Cass McCombs, Amor de
Dias, or Chad VanGaalen. An entire album
with more of the same would probably be welcomed by the Indie Alternative
community. But “Leave Town” and “Brighter Now” seem to be Gautreau’s way of
doing a few water laps before submerging a bit deeper with the third track, “Copenhagen.” “Color
Kites,” the fourth strata of In the
Bright Rain, evolves into sublimity. Here one hears a new level of
elemental (as in, mixing chemical and/or alchemical elements) mastery.
With “Color Kites,” Gautreau achieves something that’s been
tackled — with varying degrees of success — by artists utilizing various
media, which is to recreate the transition from late afternoon to early
evening, or twilight. It’s an engaging, almost heady space. If he needs to go
back inside to brew a cup of herbs (“Pretty Girls are Everywhere”), after which
he heads back out to pick some blackberries (“Bedtime for Dreamers”); the
trajectory feels organic. In the future, as occurs for stretches of Cubists, Gautreau may just whisper a few
words in our ears before helping us onto an audio platform that ascends gently
before hovering indefinitely in transcendence. For now, sublimity and
transcendence threaten to subsume the balance of In the Bright Rain. While it can feel bathetic, the album’s
intermittent banality (relative to itself, not other music) may be one of the
keys to its subtle majesty. There’s tension in Gautreau’s variance of full,
partial, and medium immersion.
In any case, the passionate pitch of “House on the Hill,”
echoes places visited by the Moody Blues on Days
of Future Passed. And the subliminal magnetism of In the Bright Rain‘s quiet climax exemplifies Gautreau’s growing
alchemical mastery. The seven minutes
and one second of “Take Flight” are so quietly beautiful that climbing back
down to what’s commonly called reality can feel achingly disruptive.
entire album. MARY LEARY