This one was a surprise in many ways. After years entrenched as the kind of player who gives an experimental outfit a mark of quality Jeff Tobias (Sunwatchers, The Mothers Network, Modern Nature) strikes out solo with an unlikely brew of off-kilter pop and art-rock wire-chewers. Usually when I see Tobias attached there’s a ripple of exploratory jazz or heavy psych in the air — like his work with Sunwatchers — but for Recurring Dream he coats the ‘watchers’ anti-capitalist foundation-shakers to a less jagged blade. Flirting with synth-pop, but never playing his hand straight, Jeff laces the record with pop-ins from his menagerie of multi-instrumentation, vocal gymnastics from a plethora of guests, and seething instrumentals.
It seems that his time with Jack Cooper and Brigid Dawson of late has fed into a pop sensibility that balances between bracing and bouncing. The arrangements keep the mind limber, but the hooks dig in deep as any, dragging the mind back to their barbs again and again. The two lyrical respites, designated “Holiday Music,” are more in line with what I’d expected going into this sight unseen, but here they act as a kind of palette cleanser between Tobias’ candy-coated crowd-rousers. From flute-laced workforce anthems to a bit of soul dredging that seems rather apt in these times, the record is a solid addition to Tobias’ catalog. The songs on Recurring Dream move like Peru Ubu having their way with Tubeway Army covers at times, Sparks wrapping themselves in the the tatters of The Necks at others. The albums eats its heroes and comes out shining, never letting expectations come near the speakers.
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