Günter Schlienz – Book of Dreams

schlienz record

(Cosmic Winnetou, 2016)

I always thought it’d be a good idea to keep a notebook by my bedside to keep a recording of dreams that I had upon awakening. That’s the only time you can truly harness the madness of what your brain is processing while you sleep. I never did it though – perhaps the prospect of actually making an effort was too much. My brain would have to fire synapses to so many places – to my arms and hands to turn on the light, to the language center of the brain itself to compose the words, to the motor controls to make those words letters – actually it’s pretty much just my hands and my brain that need stimulation. That and my eyes since they’d need to open up in the first place.

OK, so I never kept a “book of dreams,” as it were, but Stuttgart’s Günter Schlienz has, and God bless him, because the results of his experiment represent pretty much the epitome of what I’d want to accomplish. See, he’s actually made it past the point of waking up and writing things down – Schlienz has gone so far as to read his nonsense the next day, interpret it, and translate it into a musical language that actually makes sense for those of us lucky enough to hear it. What transpires on this absolutely magical 12-inch truly is the stuff of dreams, where wisps of the fantastical allow you to build entire worlds in your imagination. Schlienz himself has described it best as inspired by “those strange moments … when you can still remember the images and feelings of the dream before they are rubbed off by daytime thoughts and troubles.”

He also says this is “modular synth stuff for inner explorations,” too humble a statement if you ask me, but one that allows you to know exactly what you’re about to immerse yourself in. And “immerse” is the best word here, especially for so-called “inner explorations.” The tones and vibe wash over you upon dropping the needle, and meditation is the only activity you can participate in while listening. Perhaps no track would begin an album like this better than “Just Silhouettes,” a low-key movenment that highlights the impermanence of dreams and imagination as weightless nothingness that disappears the second the mind turns to something else. This sort of practice continues throughout side A.

Side B, then, begins with “Mushrooming,” a sort of beeping sci-fi ode that pushes the mood of the album in a decidedly different direction. It’s a nice diversion, and transitions into the “Stilleben” (“Still Life”), a lullabye made exclusively to be listened to in reverence, potentially inside the hallowed halls of Johanneskirche, or a similar Gothic-style church. “Two Big White Dogs” is as playful as Schlienz is likely to get, as a wistful, melodic synthesizer arpeggio scampers around the headphones space like the titular animals. Then, as if to taunt us as his own alarm has taunted him, Schlienz gives us “Awaken,” one minute of the sonic equivalent of realizing there’s light streaming through the curtains in your half sleep, before an alarm literally ends the track, the side, and the album. I want to go back to sleep.

Consider this experiment a rousing success. Book of Dreams is indeed dreamlike in all the best ways, offering a true peaceful experience even in the midst of its more restive or exploratory passages. And the track titles mostly give away that you’re not in the realm of reality: “The Female Coffee Drinking Dwarf,” “Kafkaesque Speeches,” even “Two Big White Dogs” are psychological markers that you’re not to take your surroundings as actual or tangible. Therefore, sit down while you’re spinning this, and wear headphones. These are important for the proper experience.

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