Flick back through the pages of music’s history books and the most inspiring artists are also the most timeless. Whether it be The Beatles or The Kinks or Dusty Springfield or Siouxsie Sioux or The Go Gos. They all transmit a sound that could have been made in any era from their initial existence and beyond. It doesn’t necessarily fit into any pre-ordained container because they built then opened said box in the first instance.
Which is where Peel Dream Magazine come in. They’ve looked to the past to come up with something that sounds fresh, invigorating and at times futuristic without ever becoming a retrospective act fixated on nostalgia. Essentially the brainchild of New York based multi instrumentalist and composer Joe Stevens, the first Peel Dream Magazine album hinted at greater things to come. Entitled Modern Meta Physic, its title suggesting what lay in wait; a sonic experiment that veered between elegantly crafted dreampop and dissonant if symphonic electronica. The seeds were sewn. All it needed was for the fruits to blossom.
Fast-forward eighteen months and that’s exactly what’s happened. Whereas Stevens’ debut as Peel Dream Magazine was predominantly a solo effort, its follow-up would take on a more collaborative approach. Fellow NYC musicians, Kelly Winrich and Brian Alvarez, were drafted into the studio alongside vocalists, Joanne Hyun and later on, Isabella Mingione. The dynamic changed and the results were exhilarating.
Agitprop Alterna – its title a reference to the tension of difference between itself and its predecessor – could be a concept album by default, in that each piece serves as an examination of personal freedom from manipulation and misinformation. Some of the reference points are obvious, mainly due to Stevens and Hyun’s exquisite harmonies and its composer’s errant use of reverb, which draws immediate comparisons with My Bloody Valentine.
However, dig deeper and the diligent, off kilter pop experiments favoured by Stereolab, Pram or Broadcast also loom large in Peel Dream Magazine’s make up. If opening gambit ‘Pill’ and album centrepiece ‘NYC Illuminati’ dip their toes into ethereal waters, the winsome likes of ‘It’s My Body’ and ‘Too Dumb’ open up a whole new can of worms that could be space age bachelor pad music for post-millennial time travellers.
‘Escalator Ism’ and ‘Brief Inner Mission’ veer even further away from any set template, while gorgeous closer ‘Up And Up’ takes aim for the stars. Its colloquial resonance offering a similar presence to Flying Saucer Attack or Seefeel at their most haunting.
Agitprop Alterna never loses its ability to confound or conflate, bringing new twists and unexpected turns to the party with every subsequent play. As with the artists and records that inspired him, Stevens and cohorts have conspired to make an indigenously timeless artefact, and no one could ask for any more than that.
Agitprop Alterna is set for release on 3rd April via Slumberland Records / Tough Love Records.