Snoqualmie Falls, the ambient project of Alicia Mertz (Birds of Passage) and Jeff Stonehouse (Listening Mirror), is a beautifully lush paradise. Cloudy waterfalls of pure beauty cascade over the brink in a rainy shower, rushing towards oblivion. Vivid drones and mystical tones illuminate the music, but a feminine phantom lingers in this spiritual place. Their music is sleepy, the currents of drone mystical. And it is absolutely gorgeous. This is Dream Sequence.
Alicia and Jeff have been around the ambient-drone scene for a while, and the music certainly reflects two talented musicians, but Dream Sequence has an extra weight to it, a warm enchantment that radiates its otherworldly presence around the forest, producing a strange, alien aura that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of The X Files. Alicia’s vocals are arresting, stunning in their beauty, and Stonehouse’s deep, spooky drones stick to your shirt, sweating in the clammy climate. The most effective kind of ambient music is the kind that concentrates on the miniscule, the subtle changes that shift slowly. And so, Dream Sequence unfolds just as it should: slowly, patiently, developing naturally. The low roll of thunder departs, leaving space for a light, airy drone to come and claim. It soon shifts down a pitch or two, coupling itself with a lower drone. The drone transforms from something light and mystical to a shady purple bruise; a dream that gets into trouble.
Parting clouds and strange dreams take you away to a dreamy Neverland that has a darker side despite its natural, flowing beauty. Alicia’s vocals somehow transcend the guitar-treated drone, seeping out of its surface and instantly downing the listener with her sung hypnosis. Her voice is indistinct, locked in a permanent trance. She uplifts the music, which glows and glints peaceably enough. You can’t help but feel bewitched – but it is, perhaps, something that we as listeners should try and snap out of. Unlike a sweet dream, the drone doesn’t feel entirely secure. It lurks at ground level, with only the reassuring, feathery vocal and Alicia’s presence to placate the listener. But even her vocals, however beautiful, seem to hover with mysterious intentions – and this is what transfixes the listener. With something ethereal in her voice, some kind of promise in her beckoning, she gently persuades us to come closer, shimmering through the shafts of light
Their music exists in some kind of kind place, a magic place. A treehouse glints in the emerald green forest, high above; a leafy rooftop. A two toned chord progression enters slowly, snaking across the forest floor, a vine of vivid colour that calls the forest its home, its lair. The drones are thick, syrupy strands that levitate a foot or two above the soil, stuck somewhere in the void between the earth and the leaf-covered ceiling. Like a circle, like the rhythm of breathing, the drone continues in its slumber.
Nineteen minutes in, she awakens. We are taken aback by Alicia’s haunted, yet beautiful vocals. Ghosting in on the breeze, her vocals surround the listener, returning and abating. Nature opens her arms, embracing the music. The drone intertwines with Alicia, a thin mist that soon becomes a mountain of smoke; forests on fire.
The tones are fragrant and smoky, like a rich dose of opium, dragging you down with its tonal gravity. Somehow, it feels both heavily anchored and entirely weightless, which is both pleasurable and eerie – a pleasant sensation blended with a slight disorientation. Because of this, the drone has an edgy side to it. It never wants nor intends to relax the listener, but its repetition is soothing. Dream Sequence is one hour of pure ambient bliss, one that has its roots in the deep rainforests of sleep.
You could get lost out here.
The hiss of rain comes to refresh, but it also drags the music into the soil with its blackened fingers. The dream fades, but the music stays with you, as will Snoqualmie Falls.
Life is but a dream, sweetheart.