Absolute Dreams, 2015
Review by Kent Manthie
Absolute Dreams marks the debut of former Meesh co-founder, Adam Hachey’s new musical project, Tunnel Traffic. After several albums with (and one without) Mitch Chisholm, Adam’s co-founder, Mitch has decided to engage in other pursuits and Adam, wanting to keep making music, decided he’d make a fresh start, picked a new name,Tunnel Traffic and the result is Absolute Dreams. It’s a full-length album, containing 12 songs, all averaging about three minutes, with a running time of about 34-35 minutes.
Anyway, Absolute Dreams is a concept album that takes us on a personal journey, wherein Adam explores his relationships with songwriting and how it relates to his work as a performer, playing his music live, as well as performance in general. That’s how he explained it to me. “Monster” is a good song to mention as a particular song which delves into this area: “I played a chord that could fit the sound/I found the words and then I wrote them down”…This sounds like a good description of one who’s in the throes of getting a song off the ground. The whole idea of just sort of noodling around on one’s guitar/piano, etc over a time and suddenly hitting upon something that sounds like the perfect sound, the perfect beginning for what it is he’s searching. Then, after, I suppose, going back to where he got that “chord” so he can figure out what it was he inadvertently came across and write down the notes/chord, he then has at least somewhat of a tune with which to start out so he starts to think about what it is he wants to write. Maybe he already has a certain theme he wants to explore, which would mean, he knows, somewhat, where he wants to go, lyrically. Either way, he may play around with words in his head, try to fit a loose idea to a new chord and/or basic tune and then, when he finds the right words he writes them down. Next, in “Monster”, he mentions how he eventually starts hearing this tune playing in his head, incessantly and that he wishes “it would disappear/and return as something more sincere”. He finds that, the music may be the right way to go, but as for the lyrics, well, after going over them in his head a bunch of times, he realizes that they just won’t do. There’s something trite about them, maybe something he unwittingly picked up from a composite of plastic pop songs, maybe because the words were so easy to think of, so now he’s come to regret this course of action, decides he needs to work harder, try to come, off more sincere.
It’s all a part of the meticulous work done to get things just right for Absolute Dreams. After writing, re-writing, stopping to brainstorm and think, focus and locate the right words to fit the ideas in his head, the ideas, concepts, etc. that express what each song is supposed to get across, Hachey finally settled on what came to be the finished products that make up each tune on the album.
And…speaking of the “finished products”, there’s much to like about Absolute Dreams. It opens with “Long Night”, a sparse, melancholy tune that quietly opens the album, just Adam singing and playing the ukulele for about the the first minute after which there’s a little bit of synth playing underneath and some keyboards popping in and out. “By the Hearth” is similar; it’s got a mellow, reflective affect to it. Then, on “Space Out”, things start to get a little heated up. The first 40 seconds or so is a mixture of the ukulele and synth setting up a song that really lives up to its title! It also shows just how well the two instruments: ukulele and synth can go together. I think the use of the uke is a great substitute for a guitar. The atmospheric “Space Out”, after a tad over three minutes, goes seamlessly into “Lost Time”, which, if you’re not keeping tabs on the songs, watching your music player and seeing when one ends and the next begins, you barely realize there’s been a song change. In fact, the next tune, the aforementioned, “Monster” seems to complete a kind of trilogy; all three songs have been perfectly placed. All three songs are wonderful in and of themselves, but, when listening to the album as a whole, this section of it is a great place to get lost inside the atmospherics laid down – not just by the synths, but the ukulele too; he’s got a great way of calmly utilizing the uke; caressing it, picking it in a careful, twinkling way and when strummed, it exudes a lush, colorful garden feel.
“Sleeper” is a great, lovely song. Once again, the ukulele is used with great skill; not in a campy, trying-to-be-funny way, but as just another instrument that has a distinct sound, a stringed, guitar-like way to it, but, as with, say, a banjo, mandolin or even a lute, when played well and in a relatively understated, yet, not unheard, way, can add something new, something exotic, even. After “Sleeper”, it slips into “Is This Longing?”, which continues in a similar vein: that lovely picking of the uke and lush keyboards swirling about, producing an interesting sound which easily go together and bring about a kind of synergy that keeps you enthralled, spellbound as each song goes by. It’s on “Is This Longing?” that Adam shifts gears a little and explores some different moods. Then, when you’re not quite expecting it, “I Need This” seems to express a frustration that is not angry or bitter; more of a quiet angst with a bit of wry, acid tone; but it’s all the better for it.
One of my favorites on Absolute Dreams (then again, it’s hard to pick out a single favorite amidst all this blissful stuff) is “Pain”, another fantastic keyboard covered balm, over a lightly strumming ukulele. Like a lot of songs on Absolute Dreams, it’s got such a gentle translucent, iridescent quality throughout most of this bittersweet song that has such a seemingly passive, slow burn that when you get to the last 40 or so seconds of it, is like having been bottling up ones pain so long that he’s been, unconsciously, as a nervous habit, pulling on a scab that eventually gets torn off and blood comes oozing out from the uncovered wound. In other words, finally, after trying to tell you “I’m hurting, please leave me alone” for most of the song, suddenly, that pain gets to be too much to contain and it can’t contain itself any longer so, the synth just, at about 1:45, starts to meander and look for a way out, then, in frustration it just pulsates, screams a “WTF” rage and then, abruptly dies out, seamlessly going into “Wooden Devices”, the sounds of which are somber, quiet, turn-the-lights-out and close-ones-eyes. It’s like a bridge in itself: instead of jumping from the plight of “Pain” right to a more light-hearted, easy-going, uke-strumming with a light synthax(e) (to coin a word), which is what “Channel” starts out as, but the more it goes on, the more you realize it isn’t all sweetness and light but that there’s a hint of loss or regret to it, which is what “Wooden Devices” is for: to stop the throbbing and give the listener, who by now, probably has some personal connection to Absolute Dreams, which, itself, is a gift for one who, like myself, enjoys the wonders of indie music and understands that when the topic of “indie music” is brought up, knows that it isn’t merely another subgenre of rock. Yes, when you boil down all the many, many types of music which is popular with all the kids and those in their 20s, are all subgenres of rock.
Indie music is not a subgenre. It’s really a way of life, at least for the ones who are involved in indie music. It’s about shunning the crass corporate commercial lies to which too many musicians try to aspire. It’s about writing music that is personal, reflective – maybe; introspective? Maybe. Whatever it is, it’s about writing what you want to write. It’s about making the music you want to make. It’s also about not compromising that idealism you had when you started out and you said you wanted to make great music that would connect with a certain group or people, etc. It’s also for those who have ignored all those cynical, no-good, only-can-bring-you-down voices who tell you that that idealism you’ve been talking about is only a youthful phase; that, in 10 years or so- that is, ONLY IF YOU LET IT – idealism will turn into cynical “realism” which is actually redundant, if you think about it. Another thing: right now, that is, now, in 2016, you are living in one of the most fantastic times; sure there aren’t “flying cars” like they all said there’d be, back in the 70s or 60s. Sure, there are still wars, despots, people dying everyday, mindless violence and too many problems to list here. But there’s also the internet and the myriad things it has brought us in the past 20+ years and which is going to keep growing. One of the things about this is that, for the indie musician(s), there is very little obstacles to getting your music out there. There are so many platforms on which people from around the world can hear your music that, pretty soon the question is going to come up (if it hasn’t already): What do we need record labels for? Or to put that in a better way, what do we need major labels which are owned by gigantic conglomerates whose only aim is to make more profits this year than last? They are fast becoming, if not already, anachronistic. The only thing the biggest media conglomerates have over us still is their control of the infrastructure of the internet. In other words, most people who have internet access at home have to pay a monthly charge for it. Otherwise, the sky’s the limit!
Well, I’ve been digressing, as for the music, Adam’s been experimenting and with that, evolving. On Absolute Dreams, one can hear various styles, but he doesn’t try to not be Adam, which is always good. He just gives us his own inventive takes on music ranging from so-called “alt-pop” to a blend of folk which shows off more of his poetic side, but there’s also a bit of electronica in there and at times all those things -and more, come together in an idiosyncratic way, one that has a refreshing, crisp – and never bitter(!!) “taste”. I should also mention that, he brings in a ukulele as a guest feature and it really takes off and adds a great ear-pleasing ring. So, there’s an inventive musical offering here as well as some great reflective, introspective lyrics here which he uses to mold a conceptual portrait.
Also, now that he’s doing Tunnel Traffic, after closing up the Meesh shop, metaphorically, and working on his own, i.e., without Mitch Chisholm, which is a big step; or, at the least, a new step, and with a new identity, band-wise, he seems to have come out swinging; he’s standing on his on quite well. The important thing is that he is keeping on with the music, not hanging it up due to any setbacks. That’s great. Another way to look at it is that, it’s a new year and, with it comes changes, challenges, but new chances, the ability to take things his way and run with them. That’s quite an apt thing to mention, since Absolute Dreams is a concept album of sorts, where Adam expounds on his life of songwriting, performance; the creative relationships which have led him down that path and with Tunnel Traffic being somewhat of a turning point; a new twist in his relationship to his muse.
Hope it continues to inspire and bring many more happy returns! To get an earful of the new material, make your way to https://tunneltraffic.bandcamp.com/album/absolute-dreamsor, for Soundcloud, https://soundcloud.com/meeshartists/sets/tunnel-traffic-absolute-dreams . Enjoy! -KM.