Twilight of the Dreamboats   CB0045

The music

Twilight of the Dreamboats, a quintessential Smith electro-acoustic work, is an ever-evolving single gesture, a seamless blend of tones and timbres from his metal sound sculptures (instruments with such names as Bertoia 718, Que Lastas, lockheed, Mantis, Sceptre, DADO) and his homemade and hot-rodded steel guitars (Clinesmith, Emmons, Guitarzilla, Cadillac bass), performed by the composer.

Twilight of the Dreamboats is a 25-minute CD single/EP.

The composer-performer

Chas Smith is a musician who has created his own unique musical world—complete with its own instruments and “language.” It is a world of expansive musical tapestries and carefully sculpted textures that evolve via a slow, constant change of aural perspective. A Los Angeles-based composer, performer, and instrument designer and builder, Smith, in the spirit of Harry Partch, creates much of his music for his own exotic instruments. His compositions, which always display his dualistic fascination with the scientific and the sensual, might owe their split personalities to the diverse collection of composers he studied with in the 1970s: Morton Subotnick, Mel Powell, James Tenney, and Harold Budd. As a performer, Smith has been heard playing both pedal steel guitar and his personally designed instruments on feature film scores by Thomas Newman, Christopher Young, Charlie Clouser, Mark Mothersbaugh, Jeff Danna, John Williams, and others. Smith’s playing has also been featured on recordings by composers Harold Budd and Rick Cox and numerous country-western bands. He has performed his own works at new music festivals and art galleries in the U.S. and Europe. His music has been recorded on the Cold Blue, Arc Light, Cantil, MCA, and Straw Dog labels. (Smith’s music appears on eight previous Cold Blue CDs.)

“Smith’s pieces are music of experiment and discovery: a way of enabling the physical world to ‘speak’ by investigating, harnessing and organizing its sonic properties. The extraordinary sound-world of Smith’s articulately structured music captivates from the start.” —International Record Review

“The core of [Cold Blue’s] production resides in Chas Smith’s works.… This composer, guitarist and authentic desert enthusiast has developed his own soundworld using unique instruments he designs and builds himself. The heir of Harry Partch and several other instrument inventors, he has given birth to highly beautiful and formal microtonal music. It is rich in complex harmonics and often structured around alternating rising and falling movements.”—Gérard Nicollet, Octopus (France)

“Chas Smith, musician, composer, engineer, metal craftsman and inventor, is a classic American original.” —New Times (Los Angeles)

“With Smith’s music, the sounds are as compelling as his concepts and instruments.” —The Wire magazine

“The core of [Cold Blue’s] production resides in Chas Smith’s works.… This composer, guitarist and authentic desert enthusiast has developed his own soundworld using unique instruments he designs and builds himself. The heir of Harry Partch and several other instrument inventors, he has given birth to highly beautiful and formal microtonal music. It is rich in complex harmonics and often structured around alternating rising and falling movements.” — Gérard Nicollet, Octopus (France)

“Smith has a penchant for long tones and drones, as well as an ear and love for magnificent sonorities. From his creations, as well as his pedal steel guitar, he elicits sounds that suggest thunder, approaching jetliners, electronics, screeching machinery, and much, much more. And he doesn’t merely string together his sounds; he integrates them into sumptuous compositions that range from delicate, lyrical vignettes to grating, sometimes horrific tone poems.” —Dean Suzuki, San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Like famed composer and instrument builder Harry Partch, whom Smith readily acknowledges as an influence, Smith creates unsettling music that is both beautiful and eerie.” —Electronic Musician magazine


“I am receptive to Chas Smith’s instrumentarium (he is a latter day Harry Partch who builds his own one of a kind instruments) and also to his music. Like early Ligeti (and like Brian Eno, on albums such as his wondrous Apollo), Smith appears to favor clouds of sound that drift, expand, contract, and change colors and intensities. Twilight of the Dreamboats is innocent of rhythm, melody, and conventional harmonic progress, so if one wanted to be difficult, I suppose one could call it not music but organized noise. (I hear too much intentionality going on here to call it disorganized noise.) But what a noise, and what a feeling it creates!… It reminds me of ‘Powerhouse,’ a story that Ray Bradbury wrote in the 1940s about a woman who has a transcendental experience, an epiphany about the universe’s neural network, if you will, after taking shelter for the night in a power station. Smith’s music, like Bradbury’s story, is both macabre and spiritual. Its drones sweep over and around the listener like a storm front, making him or her feel insignificant. Oh God, thy metallic orchestra is so big and I am so small. Even so, as mighty as Twilight of the Dreamboats is, its mightiness seems benevolent: if my atoms are about to be flung in a every direction, at least every direction has its own destination. We’re going to go home. There’s some comfort in that…isn’t there? As most recreational drugs are illegal and potentially dangerous, I recommend Twilight of the Dreamboats every night before bedtime.”—Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare magazine

“Much of his [Smith’s] work deals with overtones, using metal sculptures and home made steel guitars. This new work is another electro-acoustic work by him, and he uses the Bertoia 718, Que Lastas, lockheed, Mantis, Sceptre and DADO; all of these are metallic sculptures, and as for steel guitars he uses the Clinesmith, Emmons, Guitarzilla and Cadillac bass…. Smith layers recordings from all of his instruments together, and he lets them sing and ring until it becomes a vast moving mass of slowly changing tones. In the first seven or so minutes it sounds like an orchestra playing clustered tones, in a crescendo, but after that, for the rest of the piece things tone down slowly and it becomes creepier and more abstract. You could think there is a massive amount of reverb used here (and maybe there is), but for all I know I would think Smith uses only naturally shaped tones and through elegant mixing he crafts a beautiful piece of drone music.” —Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly (Netherlands)

“The sonic materials that comprise this work are sound sculptures designed by Smith with names like Bertoia m718, Que Lastas, lockheed, Mantis and Sceptre. Additionally, Chas Smith performs on a series of modified steel guitars. The result is a precise, smooth sound that flows like liquid metal and evokes a variety of colors and feelings as it proceeds.

Twilight of the Dreamboats begins with a low, continuous tone that is soon joined by higher harmonics. There is a sense of discovery here, of something new and uncharted right in front of us. A low pedal tone enters, adding a sense of the profound. There is a haunting, continuously smooth texture to this; pensive but not dark or ominous. Swirling tones at 4:00 gradually break up this assurance and the feeling turns more mechanical and industrial as if we are in the presence of some large machine. A great, low rumbling soon overwhelms, like a large airplane passing overhead. By 7:30, a softer, gentler feel emerges and the higher tones have again turned more optimistic and uplifting. Gradually the tone darkens somewhat, becoming more mysterious. A low moaning arises within and underneath the sound, adding a bit of anxiety. Halfway through the piece, a more approachable sound is heard and even the low tones have become warm and consonant. A soft wobbling is heard, reminiscent of the sound a worn bearing makes as it turns and this gives a sense of purposeful motion. By 16:00 we are in a whirring dream scape that contains some large, unseen mechanical force. Now a high, barely perceptible pitch floats faintly over the swirling darkness, an arc of light in the gloom. The heavier sounds slowly dissemble, becoming less coherent by 22:00. A metallic moaning is heard, as if some large structure is breaking up. The pace slows, the sounds become quieter and there is a sense of settling as the piece slowly fades away.

“That Twilight of the Dreamboats elicits such a wide range of feelings and emotions without a beat, recognizable musical instruments, harmonic progressions or familiar musical gestures is quite remarkable. The aesthetic power of the electro-acoustic processes and techniques deployed by Chas Smith on this CD is impressive and demonstrate just how far his music has evolved into a sound world of singular character and power.”—Paul Muller, Sequenza21

“Although Mr. Smith uses mostly…steel guitars, bass and sound sculptures, the overall sound is rather orchestral. A sea of strings slowly moving in waves, long lost phantom planes soaring in the dark skies, hushed drones softly throbbing in the distance, shimmering metals resonating…most evocative, cutting the spirits loose and letting them roam freely amongst the living.”—Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter

“Reaffirming its status as one of the most exciting innovations in the recording and marketing of modern composition since the introduction of magnetic tape, Cold Blue Music‘s series of “singles”—a new, minimalist or post-minimalist work rarely longer than twenty minutes, premiered on its own disc in the label’s usual beautiful packaging—issues three new gems…. Chas Smith‘s Twilight of the Dreamboats is alchemical ambient, turning a ton of metal sculptures and homemade steel guitars into a single, drifting, golden feather. Thirteen minutes that go on forever and ever.”—Stephen Fruitman, Igloo Magazine

“Harp notes trickling and tumbling like eddies in a stream; pianistic shell bursts interspersed with wounded reflection; chromium dreamscapes seeping out from resonant metal sculptures and steel guitars. In terms of style and content there’s little overlap in the music on these three new releases from the Californian label Cold Blue. Yet each emerges from a recognizable and distinctly American compositional outlook, sensual and approachable while also robustly individualistic and aesthetically self-determining…. Chas Smith crafts his own Twilight Of The Dreamboats, an oneiric montage of metallic tones and floating haloes, sonically chilly and alien yet with a strange otherworldly allure reminiscent of paintings by surrealist Yves Tanguy. Each of these three pieces lasts a little over 20 minutes and is issued by Cold Blue in the form of a CD single. Each lodges in the memory as sensation, rather than as realized idea or abstractable form, and the concise format suits that aspect of the music perfectly.” —Julien Cowley, The Wire magazine

“In recent years, Cold Blue has issued as many singles (EPs, if you prefer) as full-length recordings, but the label’s releases, regardless of format or length, are always of the highest quality, and these new singles by three Cold Blue artists of long-standing are no exception in that regard…. If one were to peruse the list of instruments credited to Chas Smith on Twilight of the Dreamboats before listening to it, one might reasonably expect to hear a piece packed with dramatically contrasting sounds stemming from the devices in question. Such an expectation would turn out to be largely off-base: as it turns out, the maverick instrument designer-and-builder blends the sounds produced by his steel guitars (Clinesmith, Emmons, Guitarzilla, and Cadillac bass) and metal sound sculptures (Bertoia 718, Que Lastas, lockheed, Mantis, Sceptre, and DADO) into a seamlessly woven entity that remains in place for the full measure of the dronescape. Though the recording isn’t a total departure from the work this modern-day Harry Partch has issued on Cold Blue in the past, it does inhabit a separate stylistic zone than the one occupied by the modern classical material the label also releases. Regardless, Twilight of the Dreamboats is a thoroughly satisfying piece of music, a lustrous mass of shimmering textures and evolving tonalities that unfolds with an unhurried elegance. Like a storm cloud moving so slowly across the sky it verges on imperceptible, Smith’s streaked-with-lightning setting subtly advances and recedes as it breathes controlled metallic fire for twenty-five absorbing minutes…. All three releases uphold Cold Blue’s reputation for high-quality music and do so using different approaches.”—Textura

“Chas Smith is like Yuri Landman: instrument-builder, musician, and composer in one. Smith builds metal instruments; the lathe pictured on the [CD] cover is not there for no reason…. Smith’s metalwork is necessarily noisy, but he discards this noise in his work. And microtonality gives his music’s glacial tendencies a definite futurist thrust.

“In the complex harmonic structures of Twilight of the Dreamboats seem to dwell the influence of Klaus Schulze’s very early work. Sustained notes suggest…an Ad Reinhard-black night sky. The ebb and flow of dissolving and building lines are drawn as vapor trails, mists of deep, resonant drones.

“Smith tends toward a Brave New World, a Utopia on the border of time and space in which thundering machines fall silent, we return to the human dimension…. Smith makes it appear as if he himself is searching, letting the listener share in his discovery. Along the way, his fluid metal music becomes remarkably colorful. The future of the composition of electro-acoustic music is confidently there to look forward to.” — Sven Schlijper, KindaMuzik (Netherlands)