Linear Bells
I Can Dream






Dreams, hopes and fears are constant topics in the realms of art – with art itself being driven by the anxiety of being forgotten by the world –, and by tendency there are approximately ten new albums released each day that target these fields of the mind in one way or the other. Nantes-based David Teboul aka Linear Bells hence concentrates fully on the dreamy side of things on his album I Can Dream, self-released in April 2013 on Bandcamp in an edition of 100 digipak CD's and available as a digital download. I consider myself a big fan of Linear Bells' Drone-based Ambientscapes, and while I do not know all of his works, I have spotted a course towards hazier arrangements wadded in thick textures and glowing surfaces that started with An Island, released on the Swedish Zeon Light cassette label in 2012, and keeps flowing into the nine tracks of I Can Dream as well. According to Teboul, the album is "a journey inside my dreams, hopes, desires, hates and fears," as well as the conflictive intertwining of nature with concrete jungles. Having used anything but guitars and a cello during the process of creation, I Can Dream sounds enormously synth-like, and as usual, it remains astonishing to me how slowed down guitars and certain cut off frequencies as well as post-effects create the illusion of an electronic-synthetic Ambient work. Like a good dream, Teboul's work is polylayered, the moods oftentimes hard to pinpoint, but all in all, it is of the good-natured, uplifting or entrancing kind, neglecting vicissitudes and phobias most of its time. Which leads me to the potential sound-related restriction: despite its manifold textures and distinctive auras, I Can Dream resides on the positively shallow and safe side of the dream spectrum. This does not imply the album is a fairy tale, not by far as it turns out time and again, but Linear Bells never feels the need to crush the listener's soul or good mood and turn it into a wasteland of gloom. Is I Can Dream still able to alienate the listener as every multifaceted dream is able to? And what are its darker ingredients? And most importantly, can the compositions succeed independently when the overarching topic is stripped off their characteristic traits? I am trying to provide a few answers below.


I Can Dream launches with its eponymous title track, and before I even knew the textural quality or timbre of its prelude phase, I knew that for a dreamy album to work, there must firstly be a slow fade-in phase to make the distant apparition become clearer while it continues to maintain its diffuse complexion, and secondly a particularly balmy and enchanting allure in the shape of entangled helixes and drone washes. In both of these regards, I Can Dream appears strongly formulaic, true, but oh so soothing. Creeks of white noise traverse by, potentially ethereal-gelid airflows float through the arrangement, but these seemingly blueish placentas notwithstanding, there is a Pop Ambient-compatible fluxion of translucently-yellow pigments which are placed in-between the other layers, but manage to virtually tower above these endless streams of haze due to their luminosity. Not much changes once all participating molecules are firmly in place, but the placidity still grows in the second half when the main drone appears even more crystalline and wraithlike, completing its brighter aura with the relaxing verdure of mid-frequency bass creeks which add the necessary profundity and depth to this completely languorous fabrication. The following Birmingham proves to be my original contact with Teboul’s album, for it was the first track he made available. Back then, I noticed the decidedly shady pith, an uneasy tension in the calcined vitreous base frame. The elasticized half-tone sequences are foggy yet succulently present, but the emotional null space makes it hard to pinpoint a specific, dedicated mood. Linear Bells helps in this regard by adding steamy stokehold undulations to the scenery whose brazen nature counteracts against the irresolute fog banks in the distance. The shrapnel tremolo of the monotonous acid pads adds a further – and final – stratum to the arrangement, one which grows larger and spikier during the process, eventually culminating in a machine-driven finale of piercingly sharp formations, with the synth-based drone stream looming in the background once the stretched derangement unfolds.


Venus & Adonis is the counterpart to the hefty blow, slowly nurturing its crepuscular-nostalgic physiognomy of fragile strings and thin coils with a thicket of ubiquitous shelter-giving encapsulations of mist and bass drones. The track only glows from within and like a dream does not give away its potential meaning. It does have a wave-like nature though, with the drones becoming more silky and amicable, revving up their bass fundament before the haze takes over once the cusp of the camouflaged yet loop-based structure is reached. Around the six-minute mark, the track reaches its most astute zone-out phase before the layers decrease and fade into the distance. Up next is Copper Engraving, the longest piece of over 12 minutes and at the same time the one track with an adamantly stabilized psyche. Despite its duration, this is a proper Drone track pour détente, with only infinitesimal alterations and microscopic fissures. Its nucleus glows in an orange-brownish color range, streamlined bass plateaus and grafted ropes of fog light make up the whole diorama. Speaking of plateaus: this is indeed an incredibly flat track, flat in the sense of its neglected protuberances or non-rising particles. The corset is tightly set, and considering the track title, Copper Engraving features only a very careful gravure. In contrast, the perniciously titled The Vision Of The Armed Head is excitingly progressive and shapeshifting, but is rather tame and benign, Linear Bells does not succumb to Dark Ambient territories yet. A lucid guitar-based line is draped in warm nebulae whose elysian structure is somewhat perceptible but remains under the radar, never bursting into an ebullient state, yet still vegetating. The admixed haze changes its hue and becomes more Rave-like, as crazy as this may seem in the given context. Once all layers fade out for good, Through The Looking Glass unchains an Ulf Lohmann impression with that delicately melancholic-blithesome state of luminescent effulgence around whose sphere of action multitudinous static noise splinters and prolonged cyber flutes gyrate; especially the latter comes as a warbling polar light of mutual gentleness. Through The Looking Glass feels full and complete, at piece with the world and itself. Even the whimsically harsher elements are only added to boost the majesty of its main structure.


The following Cella Maria seems to be a very special track for David Teboul, and while I did not pester him with questions in this regard, I simply presume this due to the fact that he uses his cello in this piece, not just a poeticized, post-processed version of it, but a clearly recognizable one, making it the electro-acoustic track of the album with an emphasis on the latter part of that compound. It is also the very composition that changes the mood of the release, as it is now blazing in sanguine-dusky colors of daedal notions. The cello is multiplied in order to augment the crestfallen, arcane atmosphere of sorrow, mourning and far-away danger. Plinking piano tones with a long reverb finish off the austere ostracism. There is neither warmth in here nor an eminently baneful soul-crushing force which reigns over the dreaming person. That this tune is so sadness-evoking is probably much more heartening than a fiery string of ferocious evil. Closer & Closer then comes up with a soundscape whose effect works in unison with the track title again, for it is the loftiest, most airy piece on the album, with droning veils inducing the thin atmospheric conditions of this wide panorama. Curiously enough, even though the layers prosper, grow and inherit seraphic aspects, the largely missing bass drones that only make an appearance after roundabout four minutes let this fabulous track appear as an ether-like capsule with the listener firmly in it. The final Plasma then unravels what Linear Bells neglected on the album, and not a track too late: a slowly growing piece of gorgeous euphony and bliss, with the euphoric notions interestingly enough deriving from the edgier, slightly harsher elements. A river of golden beams floats monotonously through the fundament whereas the melodious haze frizzles, sizzles and reigns above this layer. The synergy of a warm drone with hissing yet complaisant structures is well-known but hard to describe. Plasma is not as enormously warm as the titular opener, but feels larger, more pompous and most importantly jovial and comprehensive.


The nonet which forms I Can Dream is driven by diametrically opposite ingredients. While each and every track is skillfully balanced and never risks the danger of being torn apart by the very ingredients and buildups that constitute its existence, there are tiny shades and murkier substances floating in these apparitions that cause feelings of uneasiness in an otherwise wonderfully dreamlike state. Nightmarish impositions are amiss, but in this regard, Birmingham and Cella Maria come closest to this darker feeling, the former with its ever-growing gunmetal calamity, the latter via its acoustic physiognomy that is only ever so slightly completed by the means of post-processing effects such as hall or reverb. Notwithstanding Cella Maria which feels like the foreign, potentially dangerous substance of the album, I Can Dream turns out to offer warmer tinges and hues. There is anything wrong with this per se, especially not in terms of the Pop Ambient fabrics that are woven into the dreamscape, but it also becomes clear that David Teboul did not make use of the topic's full dimension. As hands-down beautiful the titular opener and the effervescent closing track are, there are no counterparts on the other side of the spectrum, no Dark Ambient critters, nil brutish demons of doom, zero Shoegaze spectres. This is all the more surprising when I take Linear Bells' fleeting visit to the dark worlds called Song For A Cellar off Esther (2012) into account, an album dedicated to the birth of his daughter. I still am more than a bit ecstatic about its opaque malevolence and thought I Can Dream would build on this ambiance, if only partially so. However, Teboul is blessed with healthy doses of sleep and the mellowest of all dreams: from the almost perfectly horizontally shaped Copper Engraving over the fine art Glitch flecks in Through The Looking Glass to the supreme stairway-less heaven in Closer & Closer, the album offers mellifluous, enthralling and mollifying Drone washes ad infinitum. I Can Dream is no stunning revelation, does not boast about the eerie twilight state of dreams but is coated in harmonies and depicts places of tranquility. If this is what your dreams are about, you have – quite literally – found the album of your dreams.



Further listening and reading:

  • You can purchase and listen to I Can Dream in full at Bandcamp.
  • Follow Linear Bells on Twitter: @linearbells.





Ambient Review 220: Linear Bells – I Can Dream (2013). Originally published on May 22, 2013 at