Music can be consumed in many ways, and arguably the most overlooked experience in music is falling asleep to someone’s sonic art. And yet, there can be something distinctly transcendent about falling asleep to an album; a space-time happening where sound bridges over the unknown recesses of reality and dream. Western social constructs lead us to believe that the act of falling asleep is solely a form of restorative ignorance: we yawn because we are bored; we sleep because we are tired; we rest in order to wake up to the experience of reality, the reality of experience.¹ Yet, sleep—especially the transition into sleep—is reality and experience, and while we may never fully grasp our subconscious slumbers, it has certainly never stopped us from trying. One worthy attempt is the act of falling asleep to music.
Spacemen 3—Pete Kember (Sonic Boom, Spectrum, Experimental Audio Research), Jason Pierce (Spiritualized), and Will Cauthers (Spiritualized, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Freelovebabies)—released Dreamweapon in 1990, two years after the main track was recorded live at Waterman’s Art Center in Brentford, London. To me, Spacemen 3 have always been my generation’s Velvet Underground, and Dreamweapon something like the band’s ultimate psychedelic experiment. It’s also the record I have fallen asleep to the second most in my entire life.²
“An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music” is a 44:21 live jam session filled with guitar, synths, random bits of spoken word, crowd noise, and, of course, sitar. The composition is a magnificent exercise in the power of psychedelic drone, a style of rock Spacemen 3 heavily influenced and advanced from 1982-1991. Dreamweapon, though, dispenses with any attempt at typical pop song structure in exchange for a hypnotic aural landscape. In other words, if the drums on every other Spacemen 3 album were metronomic, the decidedly lack of a standard beat on “An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music” attempts to create a world without time. This all may sound heavy, or a little too close to stoner logic, but Spacemen 3 do credit a friend in the liner notes for “joint rolling” on Dreamweapon, and also released a record called Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To. Which all makes sense, since the power of Dreamweapon is precisely that it is a drug: it will calm you down, chill you out, and, if you are like me, send you off to a blissful sleep almost every single time.³
“An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music” is followed by two more tracks and on a whole tells the tale of a band beginning to fracture. “Ecstasy in Slow Motion” is a Pete Kember solo track heavy on the ranging, repetitive drone of synthesizers and other electronic space age wizardry which he would continue to push (often to extremes), most notably, under the guise of Experimental Audio Research. Meanwhile, “Spacemen Jam”, while still technically of the same drone variety as the previous tracks, is filled with blues-based guitar riffs, a total staple of Jason Pierce’s band Spiritualized. Neither of these tracks hold a candle to the epic awesomeness of “An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music”, but they also do not take away from the record. Although, to be honest, I’ve only listened to the last two songs a handful of times, mostly because I seem to always be in the middle of some amazing dreams by the time they come on . . . and seem to perpetually wake up none the wiser on the grander questions of existence, experience, and reality. But, hey, at least I’m trying.
— Josh Honn
¹ Thus, falling asleep to music is widely seen as dismissive, or rude at best.
² First place belongs to The Curtain Hits the Cast by Low.
³ Writing about this album is the only thing keeping me awake right now.
Spacemen 3: Dreamweapon (1990)
1. An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music
2. Ecstasy in Slow Motion
3. Spacemen Jam