12 May 2021

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Serpent Dream - EP Review: Nova

11 Apr 2021 // A review by Mike Alexander

Serpent Dream's Nova is the debut release on Blood & Wires.

The Tauranga-based boutique label was founded by Scott Brown last year with the express aim of raising theprofile of New Zealand based electronic and experimental artists. With a focus on digital and limited edition cassette tape releases we hope to grow as an artist-run and artist-focused label”.

Two compilation albums have already been scheduled for May and July release dates.

Serpent Dream is an alias of James Costin. The Canberra-born musician, who has a degree in audio production, already has one album, The Language Of Things, to his credit.

The 21-minute EP was inspired by a road trip he took around New South Wales with some friends, which, from the spoken word dialogue, turned into a kind of walkabout or rite of passage. Other edited conversations that discuss the meaning and purpose of life have been threaded into the mix.

“The title Serpent Dream comes from a few places for me,” Costin says. “I always liked the idea of the Serpent being a symbol of power, health and protection for various different cultures around the world, specifically in Australia and in the west, the devil and evil being represented by the serpent and in Aboriginal culture the Rainbow Serpent being a creator god. I found this dichotomy a great analogy to my music. Dreams are also an important part of my music as these are something I draw on and try to express with sound.”

The dialogue is skillfully woven into layered sound beds that drift and shift around ringing tones and a throbbing pulse. Thoughts float around: “If you knew there was never an end, I suppose we would live very differently” “I think the scariest thing about life is resignation. We are born and raised and go to school, then what? We attach ourselves to our things, our roles in society and never let it go or do the things we really want.” “We always get taught that these are the things we should do.” “You never know how long you are going to live for.” “If you knew there was never an end, I suppose you would live very differently.” “I think by being out there in the world and not being afraid of it, I feel more worldly and less afraid of the world and less afraid of my place in it and what I feel like I need to do.”

Words and phrases are looped, echoed and muffled, almost reflecting the inner workings of the subconscious and conscious minds where intent and purpose are formulated and take shape into full-blown ideas, but often filtered through fear and insecurity.

That sense of uncertainty but not wanting to be conformed by self or externally imposed limitations is pervasive in the music, which is foreboding at times without being ominous.

Nova has a lucid dreaminess to it. Around the 10 minute mark it subsides into a more organic plateau, where the dialogue reaches a moment of clarity – “there’s a special moment once you jump off the cliff so to speak and you’re all and there’s nothing you can do except hold onto your hate and enjoy the ride. It’s usually worth it”.

That moment of transcendence enlightens the rest of the piece as it marches towards resolution – purpose and commitment fueled by action. A reflective passage of dialogue encapsulates the themes of Nova. One chapter closes, opening the way for the next.

A refreshing, thoughtful, almost meditative, and musically engaging piece of work and a great introduction to both Serpent Dream and Blood & Wires.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Serpent Dream

Starting his creative pursuits firstly as an audio engineer - James Costin quickly fell in love with the expression and unique sonic possibilities offered by the digital tools of music creation. The joys of winding acoustic guitar and world percussion soon followed, all blending into the far-out psychedelic sound design of his first EP The Language of Things.

Drawing from the natural environment, the inner mind and perceptions of human experience, this marked the beginning of Serpent Dream's surreal, electro-acoustic music and introspective soundscapes.

With an Advanced Diploma of Audio Production under his belt, James continued these sonic explorations and traveled from his hometown of Canberra, Australia capturing sound and experiences along the way.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Serpent Dream


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