Dusted Reviews

Loren Connors - Departure of a Dream, Vol. II

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Loren Connors

Album: Departure of a Dream, Vol. II

Label: Family Vineyard

Review date: Jul. 21, 2003

Another Sleepless Night

Something about Loren Connor’s hometown of New Haven seems to engender a sense of stately dilapidation, an overwhelmingly somber mute on every struggling, shuddering tone. This is what makes Connors sound the way he does – his dreary surroundings squelching each note, each intention, into silence. In less romantic terms, Connors’ trademarks – watery, reverb-soaked guitar; an emphasis on vibrato and bended notes; a melancholic melodicism – are consistently prominent and sublime, always inferring something that runs a little thicker than sound.

Now, within this framework, Connors shows a healthy amount of experimentation, from the early recordings of his wailing voice aside sparse acoustic guitar to the more recent Hoffman Estates Big Band release on Drag City, which pairs him with a number of Chicago’s Finest. Most recently however, on Departure of a Dream Vol. 1 Connors has made an even larger leap of faith, adding a wider range of sounds into his hermetic palette. Integrating electric, acoustic, and bass guitars as well as field recordings, his foot steady on a Wah pedal, Connors begins something of a new chapter in his work, allegedly using Miles Davis’ “He Loved Him Madly” as a grounding point.

As with Davis, who spent a good two decades honing his trademarked icy, spacious, and restrained playing before the sudden burst of creativity that coincided with Teo Macero’s production, Loren seems to be moving towards crafting albums, putting some distance between his current work and the more bare-bones improvisation that defined his past. Departure of a Dream both the first volume, and the recently released second volume are special in this regard: Strong for being dense and nuanced compositions just as much for being the work of a unique and powerful improviser. In key with his lingering subtlety, the Departure of a Dream records show a man making more into less, rather than settling for the reverse.

Connors’ thematic proclivities are apparent from the title onward. With so many of his albums overtly about nighttime, cities, and history, Departure, like so much great work, glances backwards and waves goodbye. Dreams, for Connors, are essentially the optimistic intention and the remembrance of something sweeter – and are pitted against the writhing conflicts of impending sadness and the sullen grayness of long metropolitan nights and the history of massacres and disappointment ingrained. Departure of a Dream Vol. 1 serves as something of a requiem, an emotional recollection of those sounds, those sounds so indescribably his. The city opens up in the lucid field recordings that seem to fall perfectly into Connor’s music. Vol. 1 culminates in the bittersweet dirge of Part 7, perfect at only a minute and a half long, yet the 8th part (each album is 8 parts, though Vol. 1> includes the two “For 9/11/01” pieces) seems to suggest what comes next.

Where Vol. 1 is both sobering and sweet, Vol. 2 is unequivocally blank. At first, this comes as something of an unpleasant surprise. So much of what makes Connors is gone in Vol. 2 – there are virtually none of the yearning bent notes and there focus is often given instead to the background. Where Connors once felt the need to speak up with searing precision, the all-encompassing field recordings of the 3rd and 6th parts, with only the slightest hints of guitar in the background, seem to speak for themselves. Elsewhere, the playing seems to be completely straightforward, just notes, not sharing the sharp pain and sympathetic flaw of Connors’ older work. At least, not immediately. Listening carefully, there is something more resigned, more bleak about just notes, just guitar, just for the sound, as if that feeling of flatness and the reserved intimacy of New Haven and New York is spoken to directly – Connors removing that prickly cantankerousness and giving in to a curious, inanimate city. Again, however, parts 7 and 8 suggest something more, the former summing up the boggy acquiescence of the album prior, and in the latter, Connors closes with a sense of grace and divine optimism. In the end, the violent wavering notes of Connors’ earlier career are still gone, yet somehow, the noted wistful and broken feeling is resuscitated.

With the same short songs as the first volume, Departure of a Dream, Vol. II ends with the same uncertainty, the same last word that seems to make the album almost contradictory. Like all music, there is never an answer in Connors’ work. It makes sense that the like-minded John Fahey even saluted Connors on his final album with a piece using, in part, the same wandering tones and atmosphere, showing that after the poetries and aesthetics of life are gone, after style and sense are gone, there is something much harder to deal with – that innate, tangible void that Connors has spent his life tugging at it draws ever near. Something significant about Connors is gone here. Only future albums will show what it is.

By Matt Wellins

Other Reviews of Loren Connors

The Little Match Girl

The Departing of A Dream, Vol. III: Juliet

Night Through

The Departing Of A Dream

Read More

View all articles by Matt Wellins

Find out more about Family Vineyard

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.