CD Shorts: Mystics Anonymous

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dreaming for Hours



Dreaming for Hours starts with a repetitive loop of electronic percussion, and soon builds layers of electric guitar, bass and sweeps of synthesizer noise. Jeff Steblea, also part of the Valley band Fiesta Brava, is the main force behind the longstanding project Mystics Anonymous. His voice arrives well into the album’s first track, and it’s an interesting one—at first blush, Steblea sounds almost wobbly, sliding notes into place rather than arriving spot-on. As the instrumentation creates a more complex setting and thickeners like delay or double-tracking bolster his baritone, it becomes a nice centerpiece and common thread among quite different compositions.

Those compositions travel a wide range, sometimes employing acoustic guitar and psychedelic touches, other times offering crunchy guitars and feedback or full-on electronica. The album often departs into instrumental exploration, and in those moments, you’re likely to hear all sorts of things bubble up to the surface. An organ passage bumps up against tweeting synth, then vibrato-drenched guitar sails into the frame. Steblea seems fond of many a musical genre, and isn’t content to stick with one or create a hybrid. Instead, he seems to let instinct guide him to destinations unknown, and listening to Dreaming for Hours becomes a voyage of surprise.

It’s uncommon for disparate threads like electronic experimentation and folk and rock songcraft to co-exist in one songwriter’s work, but those sounds vye for attention throughout Dreaming for Hours, sometimes alternating, often combining. With the impressive depth of layering that fills your speakers, it would seem unlikely that Valley listeners would get the chance to see these tunes fully realized in a live setting. Pleasantly enough, though, Steblea was joined for this recording effort by a long list of collaborators, many of whom also help him create the music live. And they’ll do just that March 27 at Northampton’s Sierra Grille.

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