Bill Holt falls into a unique category … an aural artist who doesn’t actually compose music per say, yet through the medium of the audio CD creates blocks of sound by incorporating sound effects, snippets of sampled dialogue from films, documentaries, sermons and the rhetoric of political propaganda, with the rudimentary backdrop of musical instrumentation.
Bill Holt is an ambient sonic composer, and his “Dreamies” project is the vehicle and platform from which he expresses his artistic vision.
And what better word than ‘Dream’ best describes Bill Holt – with the possible exception of ‘maverick’ - as evident by the path he chose leading to his brief but legendary recording career?
In 1972 at the age of 28, Holt turned his back on a ten year career as a successful accountant with a Fortune 500 Company to fulfill his dream and reinvent himself in the image of musique concrete avant-garde artists like John Cage and Terry Riley.
Trading the security of a steady paycheck for the uncertainty of the starving artist, Holt re-channeled his talent and creativity; building a home recording studio from which he would go on to create his epic concept album.
The impressive debut album was an old fashion ‘cut and splice’ year long labor of love, constructed around his newly purchased TEAC 3340 four track reel-to-reel tape recorder, Moog Sonic 6 synthesizer, Ovation acoustic guitar, and blocks of sampled dialogue, sound effects, and Beatlesque harmonies.
The politically charged “Dreamies” debut album received critical acclaim in minimalist circles - but proved a commercial failure – prompting Holt to abandon his musical aspirations and begrudgingly return to the workforce.
But with the passage of time the album gained legendary status, becoming a highly sought collector’s item - with prices going as high as $300.00 for vinyl in VG+ condition.
Unfulfilled dreams are like an exposed nerve - impossible to ignore.
So now decade’s later Bill Holt and “Dreamies” returns, armed with advanced digital technology and fueled by a new political agenda; his latest CD, “Dreamies: Program Twelve” – Where Big Brother Meets Cowboys And Islam is the result.
The CD is a collection of 11 aural soundscape (once again it’s difficult to call these songs) which draw a distinct correlation between the plight of the American Indian and our current conflict with Islam and the Bush Doctrine.
As a spoken world album it’s quite compelling … unfortunately “Dreamies: Program Twelve” is categorized under the guise of Electronic/Rock/Psychedelic/Pop; and here is where I must take exception, because there is just not enough music.
“Dreamies: Program Twelve” can be best described as a 48:51 sonic collage of sampled dialogue occasionally interrupted by a brief music segue.
“ Times Square ” and “Connie’s Confusion” begin promising enough with a hint of early Porcupine Tree or Hawkwind then about 45 seconds into the track it morphs into a verbal collage of dialogue and diatribe. And as is the case throughout most of the CD the music is treated as an afterthought mixed deep in the background.
A bizarre rendition of “Home On The Range” sounds as though a drunken hobo in a box car happened upon a microphone and a Vocoder, creating a hybrid genre of psychedelic country & western … yet interesting within the total context of the track.
To avoid confusion and provide the proper target audience, Bill Holt’s “Dreamies: Program Twelve” would be better served occupying the shelf space in music stores alongside spoken word CDs like Ken Nordine’s “Word Jazz”.
“Dreamies: Program Twelve” is an eclectic mind expanding album for discriminating tastes – yet well worth a listen. Just take off your dancing shoes and approach it as you might a ‘Books On Tape’ learning experience.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on February 17th, 2007