Dressed In Streams - Swaraj: Or, "Self Rule" review

Band: Dressed In Streams
Album: Swaraj: Or, "Self Rule"
Release date: August 2020

01. Diyas Lit The Ganges
02. Fuck The British Raj
03. Tryst With Destiny
04. Swaraj
05. Stream Of Paradise
06. Indrani, Radiant Ruby

Dressed In Streams, the enigmatic one-man outfit from the United States, has cultivated an entire discography serving as an unorthodox telling of India's struggle for independence. Since 2012, releases have been sputtering out of Colloquial Sound Recordings; each one as minimalist as possible, these releases are utterly devoid of lyrics or liner notes, providing only scarce imagery and vague titles. Through a wormhole of Google searches and piecemealed articles, a story of liberation stitches itself together.

Despite the multitude of eccentricities surrounding Dressed In Streams, what I find most interesting is that, by peculiar coincidence, their sound has been evolving in near-perfect synchrony with the chronology of the story they sought out to tell. The unconventionality of the Azad Hind and their delusions of grandeur are echoed on the eponymous demo and self-titled debut album. Tremolo riffs sway in and out of melody behind distorted curtains of shimmering chords and trance-inducing synths. It aims to do too much with too little, all at once; its very ambition is its Achilles heel. Regardless of how noble the intent, it lacked the substance it needed to achieve its goal. Subsequently, The Search For Blood was a short, yet refined effort. Production quality heightened and added some much-needed body to its sound; riffs became discernable and would assume themselves as the driving force of the EP, controlling the ambient synths rather than co-existing alongside them in an indecipherable mess. Now, after seven years of silence, Dressed In Streams returns with Swaraj: Or "Self-Rule" and, given the history of both the band and India, it comes as little surprise that it would be their most dignified and coherent workings yet.

To say that Dressed In Streams has completely abandoned their ambient and trance-like tendencies would not only be unfair to their branding, but it'd also be relatively incorrect. Instead, what we find on Swaraj is a shift in the paradigm; songs are more structured and roles are continuously redelegated without abandoning the outfit's imposed individuality. The polished production found on The Search For Blood has been further buffed, giving Swaraj some clarity and cleanliness without feeling too sterile. Though an improvement comparatively, it does not find itself devoid of grievance. The bass is sporadically lost at times in the mix, drowned out by the cumbersome blasting of programmed drums and sweltering mix of layered guitar and synth. While the instrumentations do not wholly feel thin, they are often left feeling incomplete and lacking low-end substance.

Guitars front the movement, methodically shifting from harmonious phrasing, to aggressive and crust-tinged black metal riffing. Vocals are diversified and emotive, often transforming from garbled rasps to wails and screams drenched in fathoms of reverb. While this album displays Streams' aptitude in more "traditional" stylings, it becomes clear that their true métier lies within creating deeply entrancing and dynamic atmospheres. Heavy use of panning adds a unique texture to the compositions. Licks and riffs layer upon themselves, sometimes migrating from ear-to-ear, with repetition remedying itself through subtle variations on a theme. "Lead" guitars find themselves intermittently curtained behind the shifting rhythms and looming synths, and these subtle intricacies in the mixing create a euphonious sense of push-and-pull. Melodious passages are interspersed and fleeting, often weaving in and out of dissonance like exercises in controlled chaos, and this momentary atonality provides a jarring morosity that never feels disjointed or disingenuous amongst the grandeur. Cultural samplings that previously bookended—and sometimes upended—entire songs or sections of previous works instead find themselves intrinsically and intricately etched into passages. Like a war waged against adherence, Indian vocalings clash with Westernized rhythms and melodies—an allegory alluding to their refusal to abide by Western rule.

From colonization to coronation, Dressed In Streams have dedicated themselves to highlight the tumultuous political history of India, and it feels almost serendipitous that their work would so symbolically follow suit. By no stretch would I consider Swaraj: Or "Self-Rule" a perfect effort; however, there's a certain sense of vindication to be found within. It owes its ascendency to its own history of fervent perseverance. Though not without its superficial shortcomings, Swaraj is aptly demonstrative of Dressed In Streams' ability to create eloquent and evocative compositions that fall in perfect alignment with the ideologies from which they manifested. It is a proud and poignant ode to India's independence—as well as its own—and a memorandum that sovereignty and solace comes not through servitude or obedience, but rather from within oneself through unwavering integrity.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 8
Production: 6

Written by brimarsh | 11.09.2020


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.


Comments: 2   Visited by: 7 users
13.09.2020 - 03:36
Weirdo of MS
Wow never thought I'd see another release by DiS.

Their other stuff was really good.
Now I'm listening to the first track of this new one and it's as good as always.
Kinda sounds like Spite Extreme Wing

I missed this band
2016 - 2017
2018 - 2019
13.09.2020 - 03:47
Written by Karlabos on 13.09.2020 at 03:36

Wow never thought I'd see another release by DiS.

Their other stuff was really good.
Now I'm listening to the first track of this new one and it's as good as always.
Kinda sounds like Spite Extreme Wing

I missed this band

I really enjoyed The Search For Blood. Azad Hind and their self-titled were kind of hit or miss for me though.

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