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Nineteen Thirteen: The Dream

Nov. 30, 2016
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Photo by Kay Collins

“We’re just obsessed with recording,” says Victor DeLorenzo. He’s explaining the arrival of The Dream, the four-song EP by his duo with Janet Schiff, Nineteen Thirteen. It’s the second release this year from Nineteen Thirteen, whose music is built around DeLorenzo’s percussion and Schiff’s cello.

Of course, as he adds, “We can record anytime we want.” We’re sitting in DeLorenzo’s attic home studio, lined in knotty pine, the sunlight slanting through skylights and falling on his drum set, which dominates the room. “Janet has a backlog of material,” DeLorenzo continues. “We’re working on new stuff all the time.”

The Dream is light years distant from the band where DeLorenzo gained fame, The Violent Femmes, and a far cry from the classical training Schiff received at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. The sonic pole star is the electronica that emerged out of Europe in the 1970s; the music was largely conceived in DeLorenzo’s studio, where he is free to experiment with compression and equalization, melding the repeating tones of Brian Eno’s Bloom App, recorded directly from Schiff’s cellphone, with analogue synthesizers played by guest musician Matt Meixner.

The album Nineteen Thirteen released earlier this year, Music for Time Travel, suggested the new album’s direction. “The Dream is our audio love letter to Kraftwerk and Brian Eno,” DeLorenzo says. The name, he explains, represents the theme advanced through the four compositions. “Imagine someone who is laying down and trying to sleep,” he says of the opening number.
“The final piece is when the listener is asleep and dreaming.”

Schiff was inspired to write the opening song, “Walk Light,” while walking with her son James through one of those talking crosswalks. The synthesizer melody provides a calm undertow to DeLorenzo’s bustling percussion. With “Pizzicato,” Schiff’s cello comes to the fore. She plays all over her vintage instrument, plucking and bowing as DeLorenzo plays down a mechanical beat. “Pizzicato” evolves into sustained churchy organ notes and subtle soloing by jazz trumpeter Jamie Breiwick over a funky beat suggesting Don Cherry on a tear.

“A Dream You Can’t Remember” features multiple sonic percussion experiments—brush drums on snare, a tom-tom covered with towels struck by mallets. The Dream concludes with “#1913 Dream,” which could be mistaken for a track from Eno’s 1975 collaboration with Robert Fripp, Evening Star. With its gradually evolving electronic repetition, “#1913 Dream” echoes the comfortable sensation of deep sleep.

The Dream is available as a digital release. Nineteen Thirteen are planning to issue another album in spring.

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