Phantoms of Dreamland

Michal Turtle, early-80s

Are we ever going to reach the bottom of the re-issue well? I'm of two minds about the whole phenomenon: while I love these odd bits of musical curios as much as anyone, I also sympathize with those arguing we're suffering from too much history. New music already has to compete with all the classic and legendary music of its genre, must it also fight for your attention against the obscure, incidental and previously forgotten?

Michal Turtle's Phantoms of Dreamland is such an irresistible little oddity though. These tracks, supposedly recorded with friends, on rudimentary equipment in his mother's living room across a span of the early 80s play like an odd new wave jam band. Bongos and hand percussion are the norm since you can't be bothering the neighbors with drum kit, can you? The albums filled with airy, new age keyboards, punctuated by funky, downtempo basslines and wordless scatting. It's window into someone's private musical sketchbook.

I've been developing a theory that, perhaps, all this music—this infinite access to music of all kinds and times—could end up being a gateway, rather than a hinderance to new music. Certainly, it creates a marketplace hurdle, but it might also be an artistic launchpad. Someone might synthesize radical new forms from connections that never previously existed or seemed possible. Our genre definitions may erode into obsolescence. It's possible that Michal Turtle's obscure living room sketches connect to musical forms from across space and time, helping someone make something wholly new in this world.