After the vocal excursion of his last album, Baldruin (Johannes Schebler) returns to the instrumental world. Vergessene Träume (Forgotten Dreams) imitates its title by creating a unique sonic environment decorated with nooks and crannies. With titles such as “The Enigma of the Chalk Cliffs” and “Encounter in the Maze,” one may begin to make all manner of associations. Only “In the Emerald City” suggests a specific story. The overall effect is that of wandering through a nighttime circus, never lingering for too long at any tent or exhibition.
The artist’s primary appeal is his wide palette. Flute tones may take the lead on one track, electric organ on another. Percussion serves as adornment rather than anchor. Children’s toys are shaken, rattled and wound. Then out of nowhere, a passage of autoharp, a turnstile signal, an off-key church bell or a calliope tune. The album poses a challenge to other artists: why do you use so few instruments? And what to make of that cover art? Three planets or rings are sprawled across a diamond, containing worlds within worlds. A solitary figure holds a smaller planet, while a fourth circle surrounds a brain. Perhaps these are not forgotten dreams after all, but fragments of memory, none complete to tell a story but together a patchwork narrative.
While the artist admits a fascination with old Italian horror films, we suggest that his sound is more likely to draw associations with Hayao Miyazaki or the Brothers Quay. The music possesses the dark underpinnings of a fairy tale, but the danger never overwhelms. Granny and Red enjoy their cake with lovely fresh butter. The children nibble at the gingerbread house, then text their friends, who devour it down to the root cellar. In “Alluvial,” the birds sing the traveler back to the path. In “Judith’s Dream,” a baby cries while wolves howl in the distance, but she seems as content as Mowgli. In the end, a choir closes the whole thing down. Church bells toll, now on key. The dreamer awakes, mind dancing with possibility. He reaches for a brush, a camera, a pen. (Richard Allen)