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PEEL DREAM MAGAZINE

Peel Dream Magazine

Pad

    With his third album as Peel Dream Magazine, Joseph Stevens beckons you toward a fabulist, zig-zag world entirely of his own design. On ‘Pad’, he eschews the fuzzy glories of his indie pop past – vibraphone trembles while chamber strings take center stage. The curtains lift to reveal banjo. Chimes. Farfisa. And as he lets out a moan atop the album’s title track, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary performance. A conceptual work about losing oneself when all they have is themself, ‘Pad’ gestures towards an exciting new future for Stevens’ pop moniker by reimagining its own very existence.

    The follow-up to 2020’s breakthrough album ‘Agitprop Alterna’, ‘Pad’ presents a major sonic evolution for the 34 year old songwriter, who moved to Los Angeles amid the cataclysm that same year. Seventies era drum machines and synthesizers remain here, but he’s traded his buzzing offset guitar for a nylon-string, opting for a gentle baroque pop sound steeped in Bossa, folk, and its own eerie mysticism. Alongside mid century touchstones like Burt Bacharach, Stevens draws on the cultishly-beloved tinkerings of late-1960s Beach Boys, offering a surreal melange of vintage organs and found percussion, as well as Harry Nilsson’s 1970 song tapestry ‘The Point!’.

    And similar to ‘The Point!’, ‘Pad’ is a conceptual work reflecting on isolation and identity. The album tells a bedtime story in which Stevens’ bandmates kick him out of Peel Dream Magazine – banished and now without purpose, he sets out on a journey to rejoin the band. Misadventures ensue, such as when he joins a cult on “Self Actualization Center”, featuring friend and oft collaborator Winter. But this is also music that’s purely pleasurable in its own context, as our protagonist explores the boundaries of easy-listening with discordant textures, and bleeps and bloops that tickle. Songs like “Pictionary” chime delicately with sinister intent, evoking a palette that is outright Mod. ‘Pad’ also recalls the space age bachelor stylings of Stereolab and The High Llamas, with an occult twist that borrows from Tropicalia legends Os Mutantes.

    There’s an unmoored frivolity to ‘Pad’, standing in stark contrast to the severe, droning motorik of Steven’s previous albums. Overwhelmed by the political upheaval of the day, he reimagines what Van Dyke Parks once referred to as musical counter-counterculturalism, blurring the line between blithe escapism and pointed subversion. “I felt like there was no other way for me to authentically react to what was happening than to make this record”. The album also draws on library music from the same era to similar effect, conjuring the likes of Basil Kirchin and Pierro Piccioni, as well as Stevens’ newfound arranging skills, honed composing advertisement scores as a day job.

    While ‘Pad’ sounds beautiful, there’s a certain darkness to it as well. Stevens is addressing our general ambivalence toward the future of everything we know, informed partly by his time in New York at the onset of the pandemic. On “Hiding Out”, he laments: Wander past the Vernon Mall, and up to Queensboro Bridge. Made to feel I’m two feet small, but that’s no way to live. Ultimately, Stevens is embracing a first-thought-best-thought approach, leaning into the fantastical elements of his own life story. ‘Pad’ is as archetypal as it is strange, blurring the very lines that it asks to be defined by. Art imitates life, but life imitates art too – and the results can sometimes be unpredictable.


    TRACK LISTING

    Not In The Band
    Pad
    Pictionary
    Wanting And Waiting
    Self-Actualisation Centre
    Walk Around The Block
    Hamlet
    Penelope’s Suitors
    Hiding Out
    Jennifer Hindsight
    Reiki
    La Sol
    Message The Manager
    Roll In The Hay
    Back In The Band

    Peel Dream Magazine

    Moral Panics

      Vinyl pressing of their 8-track ‘Moral Panics’ EP, featuring 6 brand new tracks. This follows its digital and lathe cut only release in July.

      Featuring the original 6 unreleased tracks recorded during the sessions for their recently released second album Agitprop Alterna which was released in April of this year, two further exclusive tracks are added to their vinyl pressing. Talking about the EP, Joe Stevens, the main artistic force behind Peel Dream Magazine said: Moral Panics is an EP featuring unreleased songs from the Agitprop Alterna recording sessions over the course of 2018 and 2019. It's kind of like a sibling to that record as well as the Up and Up EP from 2019. The title comes from Stanley Cohen's Folk Devils and Moral Panics which talks about Mods in England during the 1960s. Cohen talks about how the English press and politicians benefited from vilifying that cultural phenomenon, and I wrote about it in the first track New Culture, as well as Permanent Moral Crisis off the LP. I'm really into everything Mod . . . I think it's something I come back to again and again. These songs definitely create their own vibe but they're still connected to Agitprop Alterna . . ." Peel Dream Magazine is the musical vehicle for NYC's Joe Stevens, who launched the band in 2018 with the critically acclaimed album Modern Meta Physic. The debut was a mysterious, liminal tribute to the hazy end of ‘90s dream-pop – a masterful mix of first-class songwriting precision and train-window sonic impressionism. Stevens played all the parts on Modern Meta Physic himself, blending live and sampled sounds into uniquely identifiable and abstractly psychedelic soundscapes.

      The album struck a perfect balance between DIY bedroom pop auteurism and studio wizaJoe Stevens, the rdry, and duly found its place on numerous “Best of 2018” lists. Where the creation of Modern Meta Physic was a solitary pursuit, Agitprop Alterna found Stevens channelling the collaborative spirit of the band’s ever-rotating live incarnation in the studio. He worked with close friend Kelly Winrich to develop new sounds for the project, creating musical snippets that Winrich would mix into the cohering whole. Live band members like vocalist Jo-Anne Hyun (later replaced by Isabella Mingione) and drummer Brian Alvarez would stop by and work their magic on the recordings, laying down parts with trademark exactitude. The resulting music revels in its realness: heavier, more dynamic, and truly the work of a band. 

      TRACK LISTING

      1. New Culture
      2. Verfremdungseffekt
      3. Dialectrics
      4. Through You
      5. Life At The Movies
      6. Geodesic Dome
      7. The Furthest Nearby Place
      8. Clean Water (DEMO)

      Peel Dream Magazine

      Agitprop Alterna

        After 18 months of writing and playing live with a shifting cast of supporting members, Peel Dream Magazine is back with Agitprop Alterna, their new album which pushes the group’s dreamy, motorik-heavy sound to a deeply melodic and beautifully discordant place. Their 2nd LP pays homage to the fuzzy, mod-ish twee of acts like My Bloody Valentine and early Stereolab, but it's also indebted to stateside bands like Yo La Tengo and Rocketship that were cut from a similar cloth. It's part Chickfactor, part Space Age Bachelor Pad; a shambolic, drone-heavy brand of minimalism, filtered through a cross-section of classic indie pop.

        Peel Dream Magazine is the musical vehicle for NYC's Joe Stevens, who launched the band in 2018 with the critically acclaimed album Modern Meta Physic. The debut was a mysterious, liminal tribute to the hazy end of ‘90s dream-pop – a masterful mix of first-class songwriting precision and train-window sonic impressionism. Stevens played all the parts on Modern Meta Physic himself, blending live and sampled sounds into uniquely identifiable and abstractly psychedelic soundscapes. The album struck a perfect balance between DIY bedroom pop auteurism and studio wizardry, and duly found its place on numerous “Best of 2018” lists. Where the creation of Modern Meta Physic was a solitary pursuit, Agitprop Alterna found Stevens channelling the collaborative spirit of the band’s ever-rotating live incarnation in the studio. He worked with close friend Kelly Winrich to develop new sounds for the project, creating musical snippets that Winrich would mix into the cohering whole.

        Live band members like vocalist Jo-Anne Hyun (later replaced by Isabella Mingione) and drummer Brian Alvarez would stop by and work their magic on the recordings, laying down parts with trademark exactitude. The resulting music revels in its realness: heavier, more dynamic, and truly the work of a band. Each tune’s unique character fits carefully into a broader thematic whole examining personal freedom from manipulation and misinformation. First single “Pill” examines what Stevens calls the "inundation of performances of normalcy and fulfillment that fuel our desire to consume – self-medication for the pain of doubt, want and need.” “Emotional Devotion Creator” frames advertising (and the cynical, manufactured emotional response it elicits) with a critical eye, while “It’s My Body” is an “anthem against people who want to exert power over you and make you feel small…a reminder that you don’t owe anyone anything.

        Agitprop Alterna is ultimately defined by the tension of difference: between itself and its predecessor; Stevens’ and Hyun’s intertwined male-female vocals; the music’s languid dreaminess and concrete sonic immediacy. Deeply rooted in the Brechtian ideas of art as a tool to spur action, Agitprop Alterna deepens the connection between the existential and the interpretive first explored on Modern Meta Physic, giving the listener space to find their own meaning in shimmering guitars, fuzzed-out synths, and buzzing organ drones.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Pill
        2. Emotional Devotion Creator
        3. It’s My Body
        4. Escalator Ism
        5. Brief Inner Mission
        6. NYC Illuminati
        7. Wood Paneling Pt. 2
        8. Too Dumb
        9. Burtolt Brecht Society
        10. Permanent Moral Crisis
        11. Do It
        12. Eyeballs
        13. Up And Up


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