Key Tracks: “Made of the Time” “Vanishing Phase”
Mystics Anonymous, aka singer-songwriter Jeff Steblea, approaches music “where nothing is off-limits.” Indeed, nothing is more limitless than dreams. “Dreaming For Hours,” his first project under this moniker in a decade, is a transient mix of indie rock and dreamy, electro influences, finding a healthy balance. “Dreaming For Hours” sounds like a 90’s product – but one that we would have then said was ‘ahead of it’s time.’ It’s experimental, but very accessible, carving itself a home in between conventional indie and experimental dream-pop.
There are points on the album where Steblea’s music does become just standard singer-songwriter type music. One of the standouts, “Made of the Time,” is essentially a straight rock song. There’s plenty of tracks on the album like this, and a majority of them are strong. Steblea, and his backing band, are not afraid to sound familiar – there are alt-rock songs with big choruses and folk-minded acoustic tracks. But there are outside elements. The first track, “Sinner’s Lament” starts with a 90’s house-like rhythm, and there are “dream” interludes throughout the album, some sounding like video games, some like nightmares. Some songs, like “False Voices” and “The Fifth Business,” blur the two into original, dream-like songs that intersperse the straighter alt songs.
Steblea’s vocals are not the most powerful, but they seem to dominate most of the songs. The straight tones balance the dreaming quality of some of the music, and it helps to establish a 90’s-type alt-sound. Likewise, the backing band sound effortlessly talented, but they often reserve themselves to simpler music. “Dreaming For Hours” acts almost as an exercise for musicians – advertising the fact that talented musicians can create rock songs that are just as good as complex, electro ones (and there’s plenty of both). (It’s also worth noting that the band includes Daniel Hales).
“Dreaming For Hours” certainly resembles a dream. Some ideas are over in a minute, many stretch over six. There’s something very unexpected about the album, hidden amongst more familiar themes, just like a dream. The album’s only real fault is it’s length – a little too much of a good thing. It’s problematic, because there are few songs that overstay their welcome, and the album is cohesive as a whole. But five of the album’s fourteen songs are over five minutes, and it makes for a lengthy listen. For a musician, that’s about the best problem to have. “Dreaming For Hours” is an achievement; an original yet familiar piece, centered around the great songwriting of Jeff Steblea.
-By Andrew McNally