On his new album The Big Door, Sellorekt/LA Dreams takes on the same sunny vibe as the brilliant Outrun pioneer Miami Nights 1984. The neon, the sea-infused breeze, and the cocktail-sweet melodies are all there, but there’s a noticeable difference: Whereas MN84 traffics in coke, LA Dreams pushes Coke.
Not the least because he taps into the Miami Vice biosphere, MN84’s songs are always fun and games, but at a cost. You can have the cars, the ladies, the ocean breeze, and the Roland Jupiter 8, but that cocaine-laden energy and uber-sex will leave a major hangover.
However, LA Dreams offers up an atmosphere in which you can still dance for many nights, awash in neon and pastels, enjoying a range of emotions on the floor, and the only negative consequence is a headache and a few calories. Silly health-conscious Angelenos.
That’s one of the beautiful things about Door — It conjures up those quick, gorgeous, and satisfying times before Iran-Contra reared its ugly head and everyone was reminded that somewhere Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were laughing as their friends pissed their trickles of pennies of wealth down on a bunch of over-leveraged sad sacks distracted by false promises and shiny objects.
The solos, the riffage, and the moods: They’re all big on this record. LA Dreams reaches for soaring highs and hits every single fucking one of them.
On “HeartStruck,” the opener and my favorite song on the record, has a great melody and synth sheen, atop a springy, danceable groove, the likes of which would get along just fine in a John Hughes film.
On that track, LA Dreams gets wistful, but not too much so: The mood on this is a lot of love, a little loss, but then more love because, hey, Susie Joe just showed up, and I’ve had a crush on her for nearly as long as I did the gal who just dumped me for a guy who looks like that Aryan asshole from Karate Kid.
On “Feels So Real,” Dreams strips the evil out of Dan Terminus and tosses in a little Gazebo to make a rather potent recipe for adventure replete with sincerity, a little pleading, and a whole hell of a lot of Italo Disco.
There’s a lot of searching going on in “Real.” Who knows for what? Perhaps the grandiose door in the album’s title is the ultimate end game here? Maybe we’re all just pawing our way through love and adventure and Coke and sunny days until we reach “The Big Door”?
“Made of Stone,” another gem, comes off a bit like the Human League doing the score for the original Footloose. It sounds like a strange, ignoble exercise, but it isn’t. The army of glassy, shiny, and tender synthesizers take on the song’s battle-hardened themes with an almost fugue-like quality, each picking up the bayonet after its antecedent works itself into submission.
LA Dreams’ arrangements, whether hardware or software, are exciting and engaging. There’s no doubt he has some major musical chops. But there is one thing that’s missing here: more vocals. Most iterations of retrosynth feature primarily instrumental cuts, of course, but artists often take the ample opportunities to bring in a suitable chanteuse.
“If You Stay” has a great Italo-esque vocoder study on it, but songs like “HeartStruck” and “Stone” could really use some vox from synthwave stalwarts Kristine or Dana Jean Phoenix.
When he’s not doing things like designing the new logo for the SynthWaves radio show, LA Dreams brings together the humanity infused in the songs of Futurecop! with the unbridled color and yearning for interesting, and often notorious, quests found in the work of MN84.
On Door, he’s pulled it off again and we’re all better off for it.