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What Dreams May Come Miloš Hroch , November 22nd, 2022 08:42

The Halcyon Veil founder contructs shimmering, pellucid orchestrationsthen slowly pulls them apart

The aesthetics of Texas-based producer and Halcyon Veil founder Eric Burton, alias Rabit, has always been compared to the mechanic and the industrial, with the pummelling rhythms and chopped & screwed drums, the sounds of gunshots and breaking glass intertwined into his sonic DNA. Rabit built a reputation in the early 2010s, first as part of the disparate cohort of producers making instrumental grime, then as one of the driving forces taking underground club music towards more experimental territories around the mid-2010s. His 2015 debut album Communion was explosive and corrosive, while the following Les Fleurs Du Mal from 2017 saw Rabit going in the opposite direction towards minimalism and abstraction. Finally, his last full-length 2018’s Life After Death portrayed the dark reality of America at the time with references to totalitarianism and subjugated modernity. 

If the floating metaphor for the previous releases was the mechanic, Rabit’s gorgeous new album What Dreams May Come is all about the flesh. It cuts deep as the tracks explore vulnerability, intimacy and queer politics. “Nothing is private if you must be seen,” laments British-French vocalist Lauren Auder, whose voice easily matches the emotional intensity of ANOHNI, into dreamy landscapes of ‘Epiphany’. Rabit always worked as an editor who manipulates samples to the point the source is untraceable and finds unusual connections. Instead of assemblages, he gathered an ensemble of vocalists and instrumentalists. The album’s roster includes Eartheater, Jack Donoghue of SALEM, and multi-instrumentalist CJ Calderwood of Good Sad Happy Bad. 

British composer Maxwell Sterling breathes soul into the album with swelling strings that wind you up, or double-bass tones, as in ‘Georgia Boy (Instrumental)’, that sit heavy on your shoulders. Rabit experimented with orchestrations on previous Life After Death but never used live-recorded instruments. That is evidently a direction where more and more artists from the so-called deconstructed club scene are going: re-evaluating the materiality of acoustic instruments’ sound while melting them with digital textures.

What is remarkable about What Dreams May Come is how the tracks are interconnected by dialogue to create a compact emotional landscape which feels like a safe space. A certain pop sensibility has always been Rabit’s stock in trade, sometimes hidden under layers of controlled chaos. It’s more evident on other occasions (like on 2020’s mixtape THE WORLD IS YOURS, where Rabit mashed-up Lana del Rey or Enya with trap beats). But on the latest record, it has time to shine. Thanks to celestial, anthemic tracks like ‘No Ceiling’ or ‘Requiem’ (with Brooklyn singer Embaci), you can easily imagine a Texas producer enlisted on the FKA Twigs’ album. All this makes What Dreams May Come Rabit’s most ambitious album, with new layers of detail revealing themselves with each listen.