Dementia & Hope Trails is the solo project of prolific experimental musician Justin Marc Lloyd. Justin has performed in a multitude of bands and projects and has been releasing a constant stream of visual and musical content for some time.
Some people will argue that the idea of consistently releasing material comes at the expense of said material lacking in quality. At times this theory does prove to be true, especially when taking into account the tradition of productivity that is so abundant in musical circles such as drone, ambient, and noise which have been made all so susceptible to these accusations. Fortunately, Dementia & Hope Trails proves these accusations wrong; given the amount of content and even more so the quality of it ‘Parts of the Sea’ holds it’s own rather well. The first part of this double album features six tracks while the second half are three much lengthier racks, two of which reach past the 20 minute mark with the entire album coming to a nearly whopping two hours. Because of this I think it is important to keep in mind that like many other drone and ambient projects this is an album that is best experienced in one full uninterrupted listen (mood lighting optional).
Like any good piece of epic work, whether it be literature, film, or in this case music it is careful to begin things slowly which is apparent in the first track. Track two starts to pick the music up; ‘We Sent Hearts Soaring’ is a massive, beautiful soundscape brimming with the normal lush ambient swells, spacey echoes, and a catalogue of many other strange, uncommon, and ethereal sounds that make for a lush but calm track.
Another standout track, “Hazy Love Drifting Down A River” airy washes of slow moving chords flood over the listener. Eventually it all builds into a loud monolithic construction, intensely so, although not in such a way that it is unlistenable or intrusively noisy but in a self-liberating way that is not so structurally different from a Godspeed! crescendo. While listening, getting lost in the dense clutter of sound it is hard to forget that all of this is being created on the spot and when it comes to improvisation, proper attention to detail is crucial in not ruining the delicate pace and tonal atmospheric qualities of what one is attempting to accomplish. There are plenty of laid back repetitious moments as to be expected but Justin does well in making sure not to bore the listener making sure to implement a good deal of recognizable sounds and by that I mean sounds that actually sound like they are being made with an instrument.
Justin’s colorful visual aesthetic transfers over in his music, sometimes to the point of being saturated in a colorful palette of sound. Seas of shimmering reverb, crushing slabs of psychedelic noise, organ-esque synth tones, and cascading volume swells that seem to go on forever all add to the complexly layered construction of these songs. Some of the textures on ‘Still Replaying’ are so vibrant and colorful that it makes it hard to believe that ‘Parts of the Sea’ was completely improvised all in a single take on guitar with no overdubs when it was recorded. Some of the songs actually sound like they were composed, written out prior to being recorder. The sounds on these albums are like tearing into a pack of gummy worms, they’re colorful and delicious except in this case the gummy worms last nearly two hours and are the size of a mountain. Maybe that was a bad analogy…
‘Sunflower’, which is probably the most progressive track on the album in that it is constantly evolving and building to a climax. Although it ranks in as the second longest track at 24 minutes it is possibly the most accessible piece of music on the album. Although I feel that ‘Sunflowers’ is probably the best track (my personal favorite at least) I do feel that the guitars may be a little too trebly, especially for a track that lasts 24 minutes. Sometimes it can be grating for those who are not as familiar with noisier elements in ambient music, especially taking into account the recording style which sometimes contains peaks in volume. There are so many sounds on this sprawling epic of a release that it calls for multiple listens in order to fully digest the product of something so expansive. The final and longest track, “I Miss You, Don’t Fall Asleep Yet” is a cathartic journey of transcendental ambience and psychedelic noise. It eventually mellows out into a looping state of modulated drones. As the track continues more guitar tones get thrown into the mix of the composition building off of each other, reverberating and echoing up to the end of the album where distant vocals can be heard singing the title of the song.
As much as I just want to praise this album and not say anything negative about it, ‘Parts of the Sea’ is not free of it’s shortcomings. Although I cannot respect the spirit of this style of music and the improvised nature of it enough, the fact that it was improvised is somewhat of a flaw. For being completely made up on the spot the music is great, more than great actually but I feel as though it is not fully realized. It makes me wonder what Justin could have done if he had recorded other tracks overtop of what he had or manipulated the end result in post-production. Choosing a recording style, especially one like this is a crucial decision that sometimes opens up possibilities and other times restrains the musician causing them to work around whatever negative aspects that come with it This is of course a very small flaw seeing that end result sounds like a realized piece of music and as I mentioned previously, some parts of the album actually sound like they were written prior to recording as though they wren’t improvised at all.
The album starts off simple enough, some pretty ambient soundscapes, nothing out of the ordinary for ambient music but then everything takes a left turn and about halfway through the second track you realize that you are on a very different kind of ride, something so different and futuristic that it will surely take more than one listen to digest. It is all constantly changing, always moving, seamlessly shifting, deconstructing and reconstructing itself in so many ways. At times is is soothing and at other times it is apocalyptic and frightening, a formula for an instant classic. ‘Parts of the Sea’ is always something different with each listen and is almost never uninteresting or boring. There is very little I can say about this negatively. This is surely the result of trial and error, passed time, hours of messing around, doing things wrong and not giving a fuck if it is correct in the normal sense of what is considered “right” in music; this is indeed the work of a musician who has nearly perfected his craft.
Overall rating: 9.8
Favorite Tracks: “I Miss You, Don’t Fall Asleep Yet”, “Hazy Love Drifting Down A River”, “We Sent Hearts Soaring And Sailing At The Same Time” “Sunflower”
Recommended: Similar to attempting to stay awake in a house full of carbon monoxide while consuming an overwhelming amount of candy and ultimately failing. Progressive and futuristic. A monolithic audible depiction of spacial and apocalyptic visions. In the “about” section of the Facebook page it describes the music as being like “if This Will Destroy You actually destroyed itself”.
Click the links below to download both parts for free: