Album Review: Dreamy Hamilton | Arhkota
It’s been some time since I last found a fitting album to write about for the Sanctum and I’m deciding to break the silence with Arhkota’s sophoromore release ‘Dreamy Hamilton’, a nostalgic piece of work born from drummer/producer Argel Cota and vocalist Lubna Maher.
After a couple of sessions with this, I need to say that a good set of headphones is almost necessary to enjoy it at its fullest. We are talking about L-A-Y-E-R-S here. ‘In My Head’ is setting the tone immediately, doing the album’s title justice with a dreamy, echoing metallophone over ethereal synths that appear, vanish and re-appear like wandering energies. Lubna’s vocals feel like a soft power, coming from a place of serenity and wisdom which, combined with the overall nostalgic quality of the track, reminds me of Soley’s ‘We Sink’ album. If you’ve enjoyed any piece of music by Soley, you’ll definitely appreciate Arhkota’s work as well. This is a promising ride already!
The heavy spirited ‘Northeast’ enters with strong percussion, a mumbling bass and multiple layers of synths of all kinds, bred together to deliver a darker angle to the space we landed during the opening. The numerous overlapping layers make this song a challenge to repeat until there is no detail left unexplored. A true goldmine of sounds to dig out. Not sure If I’m obsessed with my recent listening of ‘Heligoland’ by Massive Attack, but I can’t help finding that ‘Northeast’ gives off the same energy that tracks like ‘Babel’, ‘Psyche’ and ‘Paradise Circus’ do.
The homonymous ‘Dreamy Hamilton’ opens with rustic, church keys and pipes crafted into an otherworldly mix, transferring the listener right before the gates of heaven. ‘What’s the story, what’s the end, what’s the plan?’ sounds as unanswered as the afterlife itself. Sparkling, divine creatures, uris of paradise are flying around humming a melody in their language as they take us floating through the gates and over golden fields of eternity. ‘Dreamy Hamilton’ separates itself as the most cinematic piece as it manages to offer powerful, vivid imagery through sound, similar to Bjork’s ‘Utopia’.
Arhkota brings the drums in the frontline once again with ‘Victoria’ as well as his vocals for the first time. Argel and Lubna make a deeply harmonic couple vocal-wise and ‘Victoria’ sounds like a celestial love song -tribute to motherhood- that expands as far as the universe itself. ‘I looked at you combing your hair, in the mirror and singing a song’ feels like this blurry, childhood memory that almost all of us can recall, like the smell of fresh-baked bread or the sea. It’s a successful time-travel!
‘Anxious Butterflies’ are anything but anxious, acting as a relaxing space with Lubna’s angelic vocals having the main role, harmonizing beautifully, spilling over an abstact melody until the drums and bass land to define the hypnotizing chaos. Unlike everything until now, this track is hard to grasp but certainly plays its own part in this alluring experience, signalling the beginning of the end of ‘Dreamy Hamilton’. ‘You’re Pure’ is made of the exact same materials, like a sister to ‘Anxious Butterflies’ BUT the euphoric build-ups of Lubna chanting ‘Pure in my heart’ over and over, is maybe the most transcending moment experienced in the album. The track stands out for that reason only and wins a special place in my heart next to ‘Dreamy Hamilton’.
At this point we start flying closer to the ground with ‘Quiet Mind’ inculcating some rock elements in the air, embracing the human world without losing any of its divine and graceful atmosphere. The experience comes to an end with ‘Crystal Candles for Magical Days’ that sounds like Massive Attack having a séance. The reverberating vocals of both Argel and Lubna talking about the night, magic and full moons, combined with a dark palette of sounds, offer an utterly mystical ending for an album. As if it wasn’t enough, there’s a twist of ghastly, distorted samples and vocals taking the lead in the middle of the track, closing it with a sense of fear and inconvenience. Unexpected but not surprising.
To sum up, even though ‘Dreamy Hamilton’ is purely an electronic piece, it makes you believe it’s made of stardust and dark matter, sprinkled with golden glitter. There are moments of brightness and others of gloom but light and darkness manage to co-exist in a beautiful balance most of the time. You can witness angels chanting, creatures flying around and stars gleaming just by listening carefully to every single layer, thoughtfully placed by Arhkota with love and purpose.