A waking dream arrives this week from Devin Shaffer. The Chicago musician shares her smudged wonderland with the likes of Grouper, Jefre-Cantu Ledesma, Juliana Barwick, and Matchess. A thread of field recordings ties the tissues of In My Dreams I’m There together. They present as lost sounds in the distance that haunt the listener at every turn, scratching softly beneath the voluminous synths and loops of guitar. As the title might imply, there’s an arc of dreams that permeates her subjects, but the album itself is constructed much the same way. Lost in a vapor of vocals, the listener stumbles towards the clicks and footsteps that hum low to the ground only to get turned around in the shadows of plucked strings and low-hanging ceilings of synth that Shaffer lays in their path. There’s a feeling that once you exit the other side of the album perhaps it will all make sense, but like dreams themselves, the details get fuzzy the instant consciousness takes hold.
This is only exacerbated by the dialog that rises through the haze. Conversations emerge from her mists — clear narratives about searching for hollow stone and discussions of life after death that only give the submerged listener more reason to worry that this might be more than just a waking dream. Like a portal to another realm, the album blurs the edges of reality. The disorientation never shakes, but there’s no darkness set into Shaffer’s works. The undulating sounds that cradle the listener lull them into a sense of ease. Even as the feeling of being submerged in subconscious grows stronger, there’s a desire to let go and lean into her world and see where that portal leads.
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