Simply put, Dreamend boasts some of the best folk music since Andrew Jackson Jihad’s 2007 release People That Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World. Ryan Graveface’s lyrics and delivery on And the Tears Washed Me, Wave After Cowardly Wave are reminiscent of Elliot Smith while his electronica backing mixes flawlessly with raw acoustic folk, something not too many people are attempting in folk today.
Based in Savannah but formed in Chicago, Dreamend is the project of Ryan Graveface with a mix of other musicians and friends, from Mike Mularz to John Momberg, Lucas Oswald, and the wonderful voice of Maria Reichstadt on the track “Winter Wheat,” among others. Ryan has confessed that And the Tears is a sequel to 2010s So I Ate Myself, Bite by Bite. He reports on the band’s Facebook profile that the concept for the pair wraps around a “serial killer’s journal [where] part 1 covered a fairly large span of time in his life – childhood to his thirties [and] part 2 takes place after his initial taste for blood and accurately ends with his death.” In fact, Graveface describes Dreamend’s genre as “murder folk,” something bands like Andrew Jackson Jihad would probably adopt as well.
The rebellious tones, specifically in the movements of the keyboards and the layering of muffled vocals under the instruments rather than over in most cases, contribute to the disconnected narrative protagonist that Graveface has adopted for the project. I view the pinnacle moment of this narrative, the start of the killing so to speak, as the seventh song on the album, “God Went Out of Me.” Graveface really gets to the heart of feeling as if your routine has imprisoned you, essentially he’s bottled those moments where violent tendencies float into our heads and nihilism temporarily rules. As an obvious fact, the entirety of And the Tears surrounds death and the afterlife. “Cold & Dead” seems to ring as a romantic eulogy to death itself as if the protagonist is staring into the eyes of a deceased loved one, where their embrace has literally gone “cold” and “dead.”
“The Sick Cell Cabinet,” the single from the album if you could manage to pluck it from the coherent narrative, seems to suggest the brain as being a cabinet full of sick cells – specifically those not necessarily overt in our minds but would exist so in the mind of a serial killer. “Your Apparition Stays With Me Still” continues that repetition of loss and the desire to escape and get away from it all. The call and response between Ryan and the backup vocalist for the song really gets at the narrator talking to his conscience and essentially how guilt and grief can wear you away. “Mothers” calls out to mothers on the verge of insanity, as in all the cases of mothers murdering their children. Graveface seems to point to his protagonist having an abusive past here, singing to ‘all the other mothers’ and telling them not to leave because they’ve possibly made a better job of it than the protagonist’s own mother had. “Off Route 8” brings up the idea of repetition, that we’ve all been ‘down this road before’ and how we should ‘break down these walls’ of the everyday.
And the Tears feels like a voyage in itself much like any concept album should, clinging as much to its post-production rounding as to its raw acoustic effects. Dreamend carries the multi-instrumentalist techniques and baptizing vocal effects of Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum, along with a knack for storytelling and an ear for etching raw regret. My favorites were the wonder in “Winter Wheat” and the nihilism of “God Went Out of Me.”