Fever Dream: Hey, What’s Up?

Paul Whyte

Marc Gartman made his debut with Fever Dream around two years ago but of course has been working on music a lot longer than that. Ever since his arrival in the Twin Ports he has been an active musician playing with groups such as Two Many Banjos, Coyote and has done some solo work as well. While those groups were indeed good it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out in an area saturated with singer/song-writer acoustic material. The concept of Fever Dream set itself far apart from anything Gartman has done in the past as far as I’m aware of and has added an interesting twist in this area’s music scene.
When it comes to this project I can’t help but feel that Gartman had a plan, and what a plan it was. There’s something about the 80s that is amusing and entertaining with how cheesy it was but it still has a certain appeal. Fever Dream’s first album is titled “’83” and it aimed at feigning to be a project that may have been forgotten about some decades ago and then reemerged. The album on its own would have been interesting enough but Gartman took it one step farther. He went on to make music videos for several of the tracks and they were a little ridiculous yet totally what Gartman was going for as far as the concept goes. The easiest comparison would be Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show. Yes, it’s a little weird and campy but it’s hard not to like.
The album “Hey, What’s Up?” picks up from where the last album left off but comes out a little more serious in the songwriting and delivery. It still pulls on the minimalist synth sounds and there is still a feel good aspect to this album but Gartman seemed to dig deeper in both sound and content.  
The first track, “Your Mirage,” sets a calm and downbeat opening for the album. The song sets a powerful start for this album. A hypnotic beat and sincere synth work makes it evident that this album isn’t just a goofy concept piece but is a straight forward listening experience. As far as this area is concerned, the album succeeds in being original and in that sense, it is quite refreshing. The local electronic/dark-wave group The Electric Witch is similar in ways (they both are electronic/synth driven projects) but they have their own thing going on as well.
In songs like, “I Give Up,” the songwriter side of Gartman kicks in. This isn’t mind blowing storytelling or something like that, but for electro-pop, it gets a little more profound. The break down part of just using layered vocals and no lyrics at the end of the song is a nice touch and adds some depth. Things stay laid back yet groovy in songs like, “Drinks With Dan,” the shortest song on the album.   
The song “Stages” gets a little more melodically complex with the synth work and vocals on this album. There’s a entrancing vibe to the song and it is perhaps one of the darker tracks on the album. As far a feel for this album, it stays pretty consistent. It stays catchy and smooth, there’s nothing too slow or depressing or fast and in your face. Those who enjoy the new wave music of the 80s or bands like Daft Punk or Air should be able to embrace what is going on with this. As far as the music videos go, Bird and the Bee’s “Polite Dance Song” and The Knife’s “You Take My Breath Away” kind of come close but I’d suggest just to go on Youtube and look up Fever Dream’s “I’m Real” from the last album for starters and then check out the newly released “I Give Up” music video. Gartman is doing something right with the way he’s gone about this project and the videos definitely add to that.
There are a few things about this album that make it unique. First off, it was produced by Alan Sparhawk and Steve Garrington of Low at 20 Below Studios. Next, this album is going to be released on tape; really bright yellow cassette tapes. I guess this is a throw back to the 80s or a continuation of a modern trend, I’m not sure. I’d imagine that there will also be digital downloads along with the tapes. Last but not least, the album art is done by Dave “SkatRadioh” Moreira. Moreira had done work for the last album including poster sized prints that are similar the art work for this album. The art flows right along with the music and the videos, it’s a tight project overall. There is a unique concept, the videos and art perfectly compliment the idea and if anyone was skeptical of the seriousness of Fever Dream on the last album they should realize that this project is the real deal and a fun listen that is truly original.
Fever Dream will be performing at the Red Star Lounge with Alan Sparhawk for a “Dance Partee” on Saturday, October 4. I’m not really sure what this show will entail, but if it involves Gartman and Sparhawk, it will certainly be worth checking out.