The Beautifully Lucid Solitude of Dream Ending: An Interview

The enigmatic, London-based electronic composer Dream Ending crafts instrumental tracks for the in-between moments — the twilight hours and the spaces between asleep and awake. His are lucid dreams: pink and purple synthscapes, as magnetic as the tape to which they’re committed, that fade into dust upon the presence of or absence of light.

The music is tempered and often minimal, but it’s also layered, intricate, and evocative. Think of the subtle power of the music of Manuel Göttsching, Klaus Schulze, or Brian Eno, but sourced from a wholly different astral plane. Some of that dimension is practical — this is a side-hustle gig for the producer — and some of it is transcendental.

Several months after I reviewed Dream Ending’s self-titled debut album — listening to and reviewing it between the hours of 4:30 and 6:30 a.m. to achieve full understanding of the project’s scope and intent — the artist returns to the pages of Vehlinggo in a Q&A culled from an email exchange we’ve had over the past couple of months. Ready to be transported?

Vehlinggo: What’s the story behind the Dream Ending project and your first, self-titled release? 

Dream Ending: I started listening to a lot of instrumental music as a break from the music I was working on lots of the time. Going so deep into vocal production was taking some of the appeal away, so I was drawn to music without vocals as an escape. This was mainly early electronic stuff and film soundtracks — mostly long form — where you could really be taken on a journey.

I really like how pictures can be painted with only sounds and the imagination; and again by how each listener has an entirely unique experience. The same can be said of vocal music, of course, but without lyrics or vocal tone, things become more abstract and you feel or respond in a more organic way.

Around this time I bought a well-loved vintage Akai reel-to-reel — it was wrapped beautifully and came with a stack of tapes which I started to go through. Some of them were Spanish lessons and weird muzak — all very [1970s]-sounding. Another pretty eerie tape had an older man talking abut his dreams. I started visualizing them as little films with music.

Then during studio downtime at night, or early before work, I started to record and play around with sounds using analog synths and other toys at the studio. After a while I had an album’s worth of tracks and things started feeling good.

There’s something magical, or at least inspirational, about the twilight hours — sometimes being awake at that time can feel like lucid dreaming, perhaps? What is it about that time of day that gives it such insightful qualities? 

For me it brings out different ideas and atmospheres. There’s usually a sense of privacy at those times of the day. I wrote a good deal of the album in solitude — not just in the studio, but within the building [and] the street even. The journey to/from the studio being quiet can inform things, too. Seeing foxes on the way home — there’s lots in London — opposed to being crushed into a train definitely has some calming effect.

Your album feels like a dream and was inspired by a dream diary you found on some reel-to-reel tapes you bought. What can we learn from dreams? And do you keep a dream diary?

I’ve been reading lately about dream control. I think there’s lots to learn from how our brains work when our body can’t move (during sleep paralysis). One theory even suggests that people who lucid dream are part of the next stage of human evolution! Maybe they can tap into an ability that will be useful for us in future? I’ve had a few experiences with lucid dreams which have been really surreal and way too interesting to just be a bi-product of sleep. It’s intense! It’s a fascinating topic anyway.

I have kept a diary before, to see if any patterns emerged in my dreams. What was surprising was how many friends old and new I meet in my dreams; and dreams where people morph into other people. Although I think it’s a well-known fact that other people’s dreams are boring! That’s why they’re special: it’s just for you.

How did you achieve the beautifully dreamy sonic palette you chose for this album? It’s not dreamy in a “dream-pop” or “dreamwave” sense, but is instead more ambient-electronic — at times in the Brian Eno or Laraaji realm, when it’s not recalling Philip Glass.

I wanted the sounds to be vivid, have a lot of color, and to keep things spacious. Once I’d tested a lot of different sounds, I settled on [two or three] different synths and two tape machines across the tracks, so I hopefully they have a cohesive feel. Adding guitar really brought a different texture, too. So it was a lot of ideas with a limited amount of equipment. Song titles are important to me: naming abstract sounds is an interesting process.

What did recording this album mean to you? How did you feel when you first heard the finished version?

It took a while from start to finish, as the project was constantly evolving, but finishing it felt really good. But it wasn’t until it was released online with the artwork that I was able to take a step back and view it properly. Data Airlines were totally awesome and made a cassette, so playing that was cool — knowing the inspiration came from tape originally. It’s great to sit beside so much other amazing music on the label. Also the artwork Signalstarr created is so wonderful. He is a master. Check out his work!

Cover art for Dream Ending's self-titled debut by Signalstarr.
Cover art for Dream Ending’s self-titled debut by Signalstarr. Some profound tape vibes right there.

Each of the album’s eight cuts could serve as constitute parts of a film or TV score — perhaps helping to tell a story about life in the crepuscular or dream realms. Do you have any plans for licensing these songs or at minimum making music videos?

I would love to do that if something came up, yes. They were all written individually and although they’re connected I’m sure they could exist elsewhere on their own. I’m actually looking into doing some videos soon — writing music with a video concept in mind is interesting. Rather than making music and setting visual to it, I’ve got both things in mind as they develop together. I’d like to expand the universe!

What are you currently working on? Is there a new DE record coming our way?

Yes, I’m happy to be currently recording another album. Progress is good so far. It will follow on from this album and take things in a slightly different direction sonically and visually. I’m really interested in writing longer pieces in parts, which make up a continuous flow of music. There’s something great about being transported between moods and soundscapes for 20 minutes rather than five. I’ll definitely be looking to release it this year and continue the story.

(Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and to adjust British spelling to its American counterpart.)

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