It makes sense that dream-pop acts would work while the rest of us sleep, though who would've guessed that they'd specialize in specific times of night? For Chicago's The Cairo Gang, it's the wee-est hours, when even people trying to be quiet sound amplified out of proportion. Bandleader Emmett Kelly has a bit of basement impresario about him, so the songs on The Cairo Gang's self-titled debut tend toward elaborate DIY orchestrations, as on "Warning," a song of reassurance backed with xylophone, recorders, and what sounds like straws slipping in an out of a soda cup. Mostly, Kelly relies on plucked strings, shimmering sound, and his own "up all night" guitar style, which on The Cairo Gang's best song, "Resist," sounds like a fusion of David Crosby, Yes, and a plume of smoke.
San Francisco's [The] Caseworker sounds more 1 a.m. than 4 a.m. On its sophomore album, When I Was A Young King the band (plus adjunct member/producer Monte Vallier, late of SF mind-melter Swell) pushes the feeling of winding down and drifting off, with a set of lightly layered songs that amble and clack, like The Beta Band with a California sheen. As often happens with bands who prize atmosphere over melody, [The] Caseworker generates as much nothingness as it does strong, evocative music, but songs like the tick-tock "When I Was A Young King" and the foggy "Shroud" go a long way toward putting listeners in a trance.
Dirty On Purpose, meanwhile, is a dream-pop outfit in the Yo La Tengo mode, which means it favors the noisy side of forebears like My Bloody Valentine over the pillowy side. Dirty On Purpose's latest album, Hallelujah Sirens, opens with "No Radio," which cuts through the buzzing guitar distortion with peppy horns; elsewhere on the record, Erika Forster and Doug Marvin's high voices ride waves of feedback that build, crest, and crash with surprising grace. Again, sometimes the atmosphere overwhelms Dirty On Purpose's slight, formless songwriting; but the band plays its drone-y tunes with a vigor that mocks the very idea of going to bed.