Sam McQueen - Dreams In Sepia

  • Sublime ambient techno on the Chicago producer's debut album.
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  • You might know Sam McQueen from John Beltran's group Indio, but then again, you might not. The Chicago producer is the epitome of a low-key artist making low-key music with scattered appearances on small labels trickling out over the last 20 years. Some have been reissued by Delsin, which should give you an idea of what he sounds like: chilled-out, heavily atmospheric techno with roots in the Midwest. Dreams In Sepia is his first album, originally released last year on Japan's Blue Arts Music, now reissued and expanded via Mojuba's a.r.t.less imprint. Though it's just one year old, Dreams In Sepia feels like a lost classic, something dreamed up in the '90s and only brought to light now. It is timeless, graceful techno with heart, soul and a whole lot of melody. There's something comfortingly familiar about Dreams In Sepia. This is music that channels second-wave Detroit techno at its most placid, with sustained synth strings that hang in the air like mist and drums that rarely rise above a pitter-patter. Much of the album's opening stretch doesn't have a kick drum at all. By the time one emerges in "Soulmate," it's muted and hesitant, taking a backseat to the shuffling snares above it. The percussion is the best part of Dreams in Sepia, even if it's often in the background. McQueen rarely goes with anything straightforward, instead creating broken, lopsided patterns, like on "Black Petals" or "Promitory Beach." On "8000 KM To Amsterdam (Narita Mix)," the snares are the highlight, with a crunchy texture and cartwheeling motion that calls to mind a tumble dryer. Mostly, though, this is peaceful, imagistic music, the kind of thing that might have been saddled with the chill-out tag back in the early '90s. Listen to how every sound shimmers and reverberates in "A Beautiful Soul," like a reflection in a rippling lake, or how the strings on "Wicker Park Sunrise" feel like a blast of icy air on a winter's day. In its casual, unhurried majesty, Dreams In Sepia reminds me of the last release on a.r.t.less—the most recent LP from Convextion, another long and patient record that blurred the lines between techno and ambient. McQueen's album is part of a tradition of techno that exists in the peripheries. It's not trendy, it's not new, but it's immensely satisfying, almost nourishing. Here, the thrumming beat of techno is relaxing, as the edges of the genre soften and the melodies drift.
  • Tracklist
      01. Dreams In Sepia 02. Wicker Park Sunrise 03. Soulmate 04. 8000km To Amsterdam (Narita Mix) 05. A Beautiful Soul 06. Fathoms 07. Black Petals (Album Version) 08. Promitory Beach (Alternate Version) 09. Monologues (Interlude) 10. Then And Now 11. Awaken From A Dream