Reviewing the last decade of Four Dimensional Nightmare releases offers a wonderful glimpse, and incredible insight, into what they have accomplished on this most recent release, 4DN 2020. And even that narrow window into the career or this artist probably omits some of the more impressive, and compelling, work. But that does us no good if we are looking for an entry point into this album. To suggest that we should examine the scope and sweep of their career to fully understand what this album is about is akin to saying, “You need to see 23 movies before this one will make sense.”
Consider it this way: if you’ve been following their carrer for any length of time, then this album continues themes and tropes that you’ve been picking up on for a while, and certainly is rewarding in that respect.
But that doesn’t do a new listener much good, does it? To say that 4DN is continuing to explore places they hinted at in previous releases is not a decent map for someone about to enter into the kind of darkness predicted by track 5, a beat-driven track almost unlike anything else you’ve heard on a Nightmarish release like this. Layered over the industrial rhythms and strange dance jams are these synth explorations that beg for scrutiny and consideration, and that doesn’t even address the ebb-and-flow soundscape that eerily weaves through the various performances, almost hinting at a Haunted House. This is a dense track, not exactly a great entry point if you were hoping to be eased into this artist, but is perfect for getting to know the mind of Four Dimensional Nightmare.
“Beta Tonic” shakes with a low-end pulse that really caused my head to turn, another track I love, but I’m not sure if it is the way “into” the oeuvre of this artist. Certainly, you are better off trying to catch one of their rare performances, as that, I think, better lets you get a sense of where this stuff is coming from, and perhaps, how you can get in synch. But “Beta Tonic” builds in a way that feels like something new, and I was excited to let it have it’s way with me.
It’s with repeated listens that this album really shines. The hallmark of any Four Dimensional Nightmare album is certainly density. There are layers and layers on any given song on any given album, and there is a weight to a 4DN track that seems heavy with multiple, nuanced performances. You need to re-listen to really get a sense of what’s going on.
What feels new this time around is there is a clarity to the layering, either through careful production or higher quality facilities, that gives you a chance to focus on the different synth lines as they dance around each other. This is a great record for leaving in your car, so you have to return to it over and over again, without needing to change anything. Each time through, something else sticks out, and these bits that catch your attention give you something new to dig into.
The production seems unmistakably first class, and to my ear, this is a major evolution. It’s no wonder Four Dimensional Nightmare makes regular appearances on Mike Watt’s program, as this album illustrates the strengths and boons that are the hidden gems on every 4DN release.
Certainly, the nerdiness is worn on the sleeve of this group, and that is probably never more apparent than on the opening track, “Pi,” which contains some of the first lyrics I’ve heard on a release is years. This comes with the territory; someone playing around with this many synths for this long is bound to get wrapped up in some of the more science-informed subjects, as time goes on. But there are also moments of pure joy and frenzy, like on “Beta BonZyard,” where the ferocity of the Nightmare comes into sharp focus, only to have moments of almost beautiful sounds come forward out of the burbling chaos.
If anything, this is the work of someone who has been at it for a while, and this release not only highlights the expertise with which Four Dimensional Nightmare produces new work, but the repeated listenability of a record that is as experimental as the genre actually suggests.