International Dreams in the debut album by Farm Hand, Islet’s Mark Daman Thomas. A purely solo performance, it is esoteric, psychedelic and monastic. This is another super-creative album recorded at Pontvane in Radnorshire; it must be on a ley line or something.
By no means a conventional album, International Dreams consists of ten soundscapes that may or may not be defined as songs. Some of the tracks are little more than a minute of musical mysticism. Opener ‘Precision’ is an inland dolphin cry, as far from rural Wales in lambing season as you can get.
Whilst Daman Thomas claims the album is a reflection on the realities of rural life, it is a very different reality to the one most of us experience. Phantasmagoric, he uses makeshift and rudimentary instruments to produce an almost atavistic sound. ‘Solution’ has a persistent fuzz like rain on corrugated iron. It has a wobbly and discordant keyboard like a warped jelly. Yet there is a ghostliness to the music that transcends this. Maybe it is just because the vocals sound as if he has split himself into an order of secular monks. On ‘Happy Landings’ they play drums on tin cups and make tunes on a Pac Man machine.
You can definitely feel the cold on ‘New Kitchen’, the possible consequence of being recorded in a barn. However, the feeling is less one of being inconvenienced by a lack of water and working hob as having to play music in fingerless gloves and an old sheepskin coat. This is a lovely instrumental that sounds as if it has been played through a Dansette complete with static. It leads into the surrealism of ‘Moving Hills’, music that bends like it is completing a mad yoga sequence.
By track eight you can make out the first proper words, ‘Happy here in darkness’. The chanting is accompanied by a sinister organ worthy of a sixties’ Mia Farrow movie. It also has scratching like some curious bucolic hiphop but it could just be a badger trying to dig under the fence.
International Dreams does end on an actual song. ‘I Hope She Knows’ is more conventionally melodic than the rest of the album. Little more to the lyrics than the title, or at least ones that can be discerned, we’ve at last moved indoors and into the warmth.
There’s no doubt that this genre of music is something that the Welsh do so well. It must be the terroir. There’s a genuine sense of artistic freedom and desire to surprise oneself about International Dreams.
Farm Hand. A rural Syd Barrett.
International Dreams will be released on 3rd November 2017 through Shape Records.