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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

"Dreams" demonstrates the power of recurrence

Gorgon City utilize mediated repetition — particularly of a single element — to create and reinforce their track's titular aura.

Creating and maintaining this blog in the last three-plus months has led to me having some really interesting music-themed conversations with various readers. These chats can run the gamut from furthering a discussion I started on one post to me being given suggestions for other songs to cover, and they're all really fun interactions to have. I love engaging with music in any way I can, and I'm really happy that my articles are enabling other people to do the same.

Of all the types of conversations I've had, though, the ones that stick with me the most are those in which a reader mentions a newfound appreciation for different types of music. I especially notice this sort of reaction to the more recent songs I cover, especially the more electronic productions. I'm so happy that I'm getting people to think about music in different ways, and that my blog is helping expose them to a greater variety of music as well as a greater understanding of those genres and tracks.

In thinking about those particular interactions, I began wondering what sort of electronic track might have worked on me to get that sort of positive, more eye-opening response back in the days before my love for dance music genres began to blossom. In going through some of my favorite tracks from this year, Gorgon City and Jem Cooke's "Dreams" stood out as a track to which I would've really responded even without being an avid house listener. It's a fantastic production which evolves from a serene opening into a deep and darker groove, all while never losing sight of its starting point thanks to one particular element.

North London duo Gorgon City are one of my favorite electronic acts because of the depth of their productions, and "Dreams" is a shining example of their capabilities. In opening with soft synth pads and a lighter, somewhat tropical house groove, they not only introduce the chord progression which remains constant throughout the entire track, but also evoke their production's title through a calm beginning that definitely matches the visualizer's island dreamscape setting. The kalimba synthesizer especially plays a role in creating that feeling, and it's a sound that really comes to define the track for me.

Jem Cooke soon enters with her vocals above the opening pads and beat, and her calm yet soulful delivery furthers the dreamlike feeling the other elements have already set up. Her lyrics evoke the sense of waking up in comfort next to a lover, perhaps looking out onto the tropical scene from the visualizer. Through her entire first verse, it feels like the production doesn't need to go anywhere; Cooke even sings to that feeling herself, remarking in the fourth line, "We stay safe on the inside, nowhere we have to go."

Of course, it's on that line that the instrumental elements drop out, a bit of musical irony that creates a quick build of anticipation for the new beat that comes in four measures later. That new beat is quite a bit darker and harder-hitting, and it's quite propulsive when paired with the bass synth. When I first heard this section — the first chorus, as verified by the repeating lyrics, "And it feel so good / Like we're in a dream?" — I was a bit skeptical about it fitting in with the material that came before it, even with it retaining the song's standard chord progression. However, that fear was promptly allayed when the synth bass soon backs off to a degree, and the bass drum-heavy beat it was soon augmented by a pattern reminiscent of the calm tropical one from before.

Once the kalimba synth also re-entered, I really felt the elements all belonged together. It's as if the kalimba is the track's sonic glue — it isn't the base around which the whole track is built, but to me it's the one sound that's indispensable to the track with how it continually evokes the calm, tropical aura that defines the whole production and is further verified by its title. The kalimba's role is further cemented as the track goes through another verse and chorus, and the kalimba's dropping out and re-emergence plays the same role again as before.

"Dreams" is a song which showcases the value of recurring elements in a production with as much depth as what Gorgon City put together. All the change and transformation throughout the track is mediated through the kalimba synth — an element which isn't always there, but nonetheless defines the production through the dreamlike feeling it carries and reaffirms when it is present. It's this quality of mediated recurrence that makes the track so rewarding for me, and it's also an aspect not just of this production, but of music in general that I think a lot of people can understand and appreciate.


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