Poordream: Immaterial Monarch
33 Recordings / Spectraliquid

Immaterial Monarch is the first collection from John Valasis, a professional sound designer and young musician from Greece, under the Poordream moniker. Though the release is over fifty minutes long, it's not all original material. Instead, the release includes three Poordream tracks (one a remix of another) supplemented by seven remixes of the title track. Based on the evidence at hand, the Poordream sound is one constructed using programming, samples, and field recordings, and tends towards the epic and melancholy end of the electronic spectrum.

In the “Immaterial Monarch” original, Poordream sculpts a brooding and epic string-drenched base for the infamous “mad as hell” rant by Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) lifted from the 1976 film Network (“I want you to get mad! You've got to say, ‘I'm a human being, Goddamnit, my life has value!'”); surprisingly, no credit or acknowledgement for the material appears on the CD packaging. Occasionally Beale's words are heard alongside an unnamed guru's reflective musings (“To understand is to transform”), which are designed to function as obvious counterpoint. That his words are given center stage in the closing “Sounds of Consciousness” is assuredly no accident either, as Valasis presumably intends for his message to be the “last word” and an antidote for the despair and anger expressed by Beale.

Poordream's subsequent “Grandma” version of the track uses it as a springboard for a breakbeats-centered treatment that shifts away the focus from the melancholic character of the original to something more free-spirited. With respect to the guests' contributions, some treatments fare better than others. On the positive tip, Nadsat includes the monologue in its entirety (shown below*) in a version that's nicely atmospheric and complementary to Poordream's own. Tape86 demonstrates a sensitive hand in an also-atmospheric melding of low-level restraint and carefully-modulated mood changes. As one might expect, Finch's voice is mangled, shredded, and chopped in some of the tracks (e.g., the remix by Mr. F.) for sonic effect; Mahos Paterakis's “riot mix,” for instance, loops the word “bad” so that it becomes part of the track's charging groove. Less enthrallingly, a female vocalist in Broken Tempo's remix recasts Beal's words in a song-like context that gravitates between trip-hop and lazy funk treatments, while Dama opts for a drum'n'bass overhaul that's inarguably solidly-executed but nonetheless sounds dated (a Squarepusher-like “Amen break” episode renders it even less current).

* “I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad, worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.” Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot, I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, ‘I'm a human being, Goddamnit! My life has value!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell ‘I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, ‘I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: ‘I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!'”

October 2009