Bill Holt’s Dreamies: an incredible mental experience
by Daniele Falchetti
26 / 11 / 2021
Before this experimental album called Dreamies, Bill Holt did not have any experience in writing or composing music. He lived the typical American life as a husband and father, working a 9 to 5 job to support his family. Around the age of 30, Holt quit his job to dedicate the following year of his life to creating this ambitious project: a hypnotic musical collage that lasts more than 50 minutes and is as fascinating as it is tedious at times. Even the most erratic sounds and random tunes were, without a doubt, carefully arranged and meticulously assembled.
Surprisingly enough, the album only has three actual “songs” that are mixed with psychedelic sound effects, spoken news clips, and wonderful fragments of melodic invention. The absence of drums helps dim the impact of the songs, and listening to the album with headphones makes a huge difference since this is not the kind of music that you play in the background. For its full appreciation, each side must be listened to without interruption. The Moog synthesizer, with its countless bleeps and blips on side two, can turn out to be very mesmerizing if you are in the proper mindset. Just as Kraftwerk, Bill Holt understood how to take advantage of repetition to alter one’s concept of what music can be. The uniqueness of this album is not to be questioned. It might not be one of those records that you listen to very frequently, but for sure you will experience it differently each time you play it.
Dreamies became an exceptionally cool strain of psychedelic folk and sonic sound collages that continuously swerve in and out. The cover itself states that the album is “an incredible mental experience”, and we are not here to disagree! Holt found inspiration in the Beatles and experimental composers such as John Cage to create his unique style. The socio-political background of the Cold War in the 1960’s and early 1970’s has a certain effect on the mood of the album which reflects the dreams of a young man watching the world change before his eyes. The effects of the Moog synthesizer, together with the sounds of the acoustic guitar, are used to portray a haunting and surreal picture of the period.
The album was created with a four-track reel-to-reel recorder, and it took two years to finalize the recording which was done in Holt’s home studio in Delaware. It was mastered at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia (where David Bowie recorded his mid-seventies dance album), and it was initially sold by direct mail through the Rolling Stone magazine.
Side One’s Program Ten and Side Two’s Program Eleven deliver more than fifty minutes of truly personal music that critics describe as being 25 years radically ahead of its time. Rolling Stone writer David Fricke called Dreamies “endless hours of mental entertainment”. Even the album cover states that “DREAMIES provide you with a new form of personal entertainment, a splendid time is guaranteed for all”.