Album Review: H A U N T E R – ‘Dream the Day Away’

Posted: by The Editor

Dream the Day Away sounds like its cover looks: a soothingly detailed blur. Now composed of Sander Bryce and Jonah Levine, East Coast-based production duo H A U N T E R aptly describes themselves as an “organic and sample-based approach to jazz and hip-hop.” From the first track of this darkly warm sophomore album, there’s a playful balancing act between spontaneity and reticence that pays off in the end.

Dream the Day Away is in a near genre-less category, but confidently follows in the footsteps Thundercat or Flying Lotus. At the same time, Bryce’s years playing in Really From lend the album some jazzier aspects. When we’re nearly used to the modern ambient jazz and occasionally aggressive punchy bars over creative sampling and horns, a twinkling mathy sound reminiscent of Minus the Bear comes as a welcome sucker punch.

The narrative is intwined with the dreamlike nature of the album, less surrealism and more of a dream journal given sound. “888″ immediately hands us singable lyrics with a warm diverse instrument selection, and cymbals gradually increase to punctuate Lady Pills’ rock sensibility. Even at the song’s loudest, it still has a contemplative quality. An ambient and daydreamy sound with poppy lyrics, “I reach for the arms that knew from my ship of friends while I learnt of the love that holds me” feels like an almost different album from the next track “Brain Cells”: a rap beginning with “I can’t stay focused” that keeps a western bluesy Tarantino movie vibe that could make a night time walk into a strut. 

H A U N T E R’s sequencing this time around ends up surprising yet consistent with the narrative flow of the album, which is a feat indeed for a 22 track album. Some listeners may ask if that length is necessary, which is arguable. There’s a few songs I tossed around, wondering if this track is the thesis of Dream the Day Away, and that more about taste than the track’s contents. Different versions of ambient pop daydream debating how to avoid giving in to a waking nightmare, lyrically or otherwise. A fan of H A U N T E R before the Jonah Levine era may want more instrumental tracks, but the direction taken shows the breadth the duo is capable of.

Alfred on Peace Signs may have you smiling solemnly to the line “fuck out my face” on a summer evening. I will be testing that theory out this summer for sure. The shorter tracks like “Believe in It” suffer from a lack of lyrical rubato when not trying to be an interlude, as a lot of time on Dream the Day Away is devoted to subversion on a measure to measure basis. Precise percussion compliments Lo Artiz’s calming vocal focus, she stays surprisingly grounding for sounding like an abstract Yasmin Lacey track that asks “if I talk to god will she ever reply” and answers that question the next line with a maybe.

By the closer “Witching Hour” we are being lulled to sleep and invoked to listen again a different day to really get into each line, drumline, and sample, or we are trying to make out what Paige Chaplain is saying from so many cuts. The singles off the album will likely be my most listened to tracks here, the instrumentals will be on personal playlists until I no longer have ears, and my biggest surprise was being majorly impressed by Sydney-based Mr Rhodes bringing an abstract lyrical flow accompanied by horns in “Floatin’.” Ear-pleasing the first listen and doubly so with repeated listens, this single has punch, ambience, and a poppier quality than you’d expect–but is still in tune with the rest of the album. I’d hate to spoil anything but trust you’ll “enjoy the attainment.” H A U N T E R lives up to their namesake with a dreamy and nearly relentless feeling of juxtaposition of instruments, featured artists, and time signatures. I am eager to hear the next piece they put out, and hope you don’t sleep on Dream the Day Away.

Dream the Day Away is out tomorrow.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Anne Hurban | @fyrbrdtransanne

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