The Dreamfish project was launched in 1993 by Mixmaster Morris and Pete Namlook in a strictly limited vinyl edition of 500 copies on Namlook's creatively titled Frankfurt-based label Fax +49-69/450464. However, this gemstone of an Ambient album with 4 long tracks couldn‘t be kept secret for long, so over the years, it was re-released incessantly, reaching countries as far as Japan and gained the duo a cult following to this day. And yes, I have to admit: the self-titled album Dreamfish is utterly gorgeous. In a time when Eurodance and Rave tunes were omnipresent commodities, the duo not only made a U-turn by completely ignoring these obscurities, but left the world as we know it completely. The album stands the test of time. Each of its long tracks, ranging from 9+ till almost 28 minutes, is of a transnational, universally valid beauty. And dark. I‘ve reviewed many similarly themed albums, ranging from the ethereal Vibrant Water by Thom Brennan over the resounding abyss of Mindlook by Jonson to System 7‘s Point 3: Water Album and, in a way, Echologist's Subterranean. I‘m not saying that Dreamfish is the best album out of these four, as this would be as subjective a commentary as it would be a cheap prevarication. However, what I can say for sure is that it is the most melodious album while still retaining the darkness that is so typical for the concept of aural water. Since it is highly loop-based – in contrast to Brennan‘s and Jonson‘s swirling synthscapes –, the loops have to be perfectly elaborated so that one can hear them time and again … and due to the album‘s long duration of over 70 minutes, one is experiencing exactly that. The tunes are deep and shimmering, offering hope, calmness, tranquility but also blackness and a certain rapture of the deep without ever transgressing the line that divides the Ambient genre from the New Age extravaganza. Let‘s descend and meet the Dreamfish.


School Of Fish is an 18+ minutes long rapturous entity full of swirling synth pad formations that are for all intents and purposes acid hooks, but they are softened and illuminated so much that they have next to nothing to do with the usually incisive etch bath of coming-of-age Trance tunes. In the first minute already, the trademark inclusion of this song enters the synth pad vortex: a terrifically seraphic, rising three-note synth string melody that is gently finding its way into the listener‘s head and will stay there long after the track is over. Juxtaposed to its superstructure are both hazy drone washes that induce the deepness of the depicted aquatic cosmos as well as soft electronic drum kit percussion and morse code-like echoey synth pulses. Flittering high-pitched bells are used as placid devices and foils of the deepness. My description is rather technical, true, and mechanically lists a few of the ingredients that Morris and Namlook used, but the subjective experience one has when listening to the song has to be witnessed by every interested listener. I am thinking about brightly-lit darkness when I‘m listening to this song, and due to the slight percussion and the droning bass that traverses occasionally, I can also suggest this tune for moonlight runners, even though there is no straight 4/4 beat attached. One of the best Ambient tracks ever produced; considering the throughput and variety of the genre, that‘s a big achievement! The almost 28-minutes long Hymn is next and uses typical devices of Trance songs, namely the vestigial but punchy synth pad melody plus accompanying bass backings and a darkly oscillating, meandering maelstrom of the galactical kind. After over two minutes, a glacial synth swirl is introduced whose polyphony is a soothing element that remains in the background for too long, though, but keeps coming back all the time. It is after 18 minutes that the song reaches its peak with the reduction of every percussive or rhythmic device, letting the synth strings shine all the more when the duo upholds this state for a minute or so. Even though the Trance structures are vastly obvious, I consider this an Ambient track in the end, for the bass backings aren‘t pumping enough and, due to their nature, remain in the shadows. In contrast to the panegyrical School Of Fish, Hymn doesn‘t sound that hymnic, but is less catchy due to its eclectic textures, colder atmosphere and lack of hummable melodies.


The shortest and gloomiest track, called Fishology is next and begins with a huge bubbling sound and abyssal basslines, foreshadowing the similar sounds of Jonson. Radio frequency-like droplets flow through the deepness, and only their echoes suggest that the created room is very wide. The droplets morph into walkie talkie-esque robotic voices that bounce while the rhythm changes and silky percussion is merged with spectral synth backings while pitch-black synth pads are floating by. The mood really is incredibly dark, and the permanent pulses and warbled robots create a foreign, otherwise forlorn world. The scintillating pulses cannot fend off the darkness, but have the opposite effect due to their echo that only enhances the cavernous mood that seems to swallow the listener. Again, in contrast to School Of Fish, this song is a let-down, but it succeeds in fields where the mentioned tune falls flat, mainly in coming up with the dangerous kind of deepness that isn‘t soothing, but forceful and daunting. If you like cinematic, Dark Ambient, this one will be right up your alley, I can assure you. The final, aptly-titled Under Water presents 15+ minutes of pure Ambient track with splendidly warped and completely artificial whale songs. The song is very foggy and keeps on seething all the time. The best bits, however, are the strangely warm, yet futuristic and elevated synth swarms. They are towering devices whose sustain is intertwined with higher pitched versions of the same synth setup. These entities are repeated all the time, but they never get boring due to their perfectly spellbinding quality. The listener is encapsulated in cold warmth, and while this may be oxymoronic stupidity, it is exactly how I feel about this song. Its heaviness and capaciousness are very large, and its fogginess either causes a chilly mood or a feeling of concealment, depending on your viewpoint. This track, if you haven‘t figured it out yourself yet, is an absolutely entrancing track, foreshadowing the drone movement of today. It‘s yet another special Ambient track that is way too close to my heart. A fantastic outro for sure!


Dreamfish intermixes four different Ambient styles in order to paint various kinds of aquatic density. School Of Fish is the anthem of contentment or happiness, consisting of a hummable three-note synth; all in all, this track is considered by me as one of the most beautiful Ambient tunes of all time. Hymn is probably the strongest remnant of the early 90‘s and the album‘s origin, for it features synth pads that are typically found in Trance tunes, and even though the Trance genre itself consists of several subdivisions, please allow me to simplify this analogy for the sake of it. Fishology is definitely influenced by pompous film scores. It is terribly dark, but its darkness is also attractive in a weirdly twisted way. Fans of Jonson and submarine movies, go listen to this song if you don‘t know it already. And finally, Under Water is one of the first drone songs in Ambient history, its fogginess being terrifically cozy or dangerously glacial, depending on each listener. Morris and Namlook deliver an Ambient masterpiece that has been under the submarine radar for too long. Fortunately, its exclusiveness is long gone, for it is easily available on iTunes, Amazon and on CD. If you want all the styles of the albums mentioned in the first paragraph, go and get Dreamfish. It might not be perfectly coherent due to its varying styles, but it is always Ambient by nature and depicts the oceanic deepness with synthesizers only. A classic piece not to be missed. Two songs of four are masterpieces, an admittedly problematic term I don‘t use light-mindedly, but in regard to School Of Fish and Under Water, I‘d be dumb not to use it. On a side note, the duo of Dreamfish also recorded a second installment in 1995, called Dreamfish 2. This will be reviewed at a later date and is equally interesting, although the wow factor isn‘t as huge. But don‘t let that put you off. You best check out both albums.




Ambient Review 056: Dreamfish – Dreamfish (1993). Originally published on Apr. 11, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.