After hearing Duke Garwood’s chilled-out guitar ruminations “Jesus Got a Gun” and “Summer Gold” (the latter of which I featured on OKS), I was totally stoked for an album based around acoustic talking blues. Instead, “Dreamboatsafari” is mostly skronk-heavy blues/jazz disc with a couple mellow tunes thrown in.
And when I mean skronk-heavy, I mean it gets really heady. “Tapestry of Mars” recalls the bizarre saxophone experiments of Colin Stetson, but without as much emotive power or context. The whirring and grinding noises don’t help. It leads straight into “Flames of Gold,” which is mellow, but still evoking a doom-heavy jazz sort of idiom. The patterned, distorted guitar of “Rank Panache” sounds like math-rock, and would be awesome in some other context, I think. “Taras Bulbous” is nearly unlistenable, improv-esque noise.
There are tunes that cut the difference between experimental jazz/blues/noise and the mellow offerings promised. “Panther” recalls the good side of Colin Stetson, with saxophones laying a solid base for instruments to play around on top of. It still sounds approximately like the end of the world, especially with Garwood mumbling “With the power, baby” enigmatically throughout, but it’s at least a good way to go out. “Larry” is similar in concept and execution.
Ignoring the you-can-guess-where-that’s-going “Space Trucker Lady” and the two singles, there are only four tunes left undiscussed. Two of them are of the experimental variety (“Gold Watch” and “Gengis”) and two (two!) are of the vein that the singles promised. “Wine Blood” is a beautiful, morose acoustic solo tune. “Gods in My Shoes” is similar to the lazy talking blues of “Summer Gold,” and it’s pleasant.
The whole album hangs together pretty decently as a whole; the recording was done in a mid-fi way that plays up the fuzzy edges of the sound and ties in the outlier acoustic bits. But it just isn’t at all what I was expecting to hear, nor what could reasonably be expected from preview listens. If you like experimental music, this will be a cool release for you. Garwood’s a talented guy, and it shows.
But if you don’t like the word “skronk,” be forewarned. —Stephen Carradini