Psychedelic dreamfolk—a subgenre that has likely never graced your ears, that is, until now. Enter Aquarius Dreams, an innovative collective that has been making waves in Montreal’s music scene with its beautifully crafted, unconventional take on indie rock. October 13th marked the group’s first-ever live performance, with the premier of their inaugural EP, Solace, before a packed room at La Vitrola.
Just who are these mysterious newcomers? The brainchild of McGill graduate, neuropsychology researcher, and occasional busker Henri Rabalais, the Aquarius Dreams project has steadily grown to include six other musicians, a graphic designer, and a videographer. Rabalais has made a point to source input from his diverse network of friends and colleagues, resulting in an ever-evolving entity that is at once distinct and widely appealing. Lush visuals complement the musical maelstrom, and custom-designed video is in the works (stay tuned!).
While the group sets a very high bar in terms of each member’s instrumental mastery, a large part of the band’s idiosyncrasy lies in the lyrics. Interspersed with forlorn croons and a eerily nostalgic kind of nautical romanticism, the each verse evokes a bittersweet reminiscence. Rabalais’ songwriting is ambitious, inspired in part by pioneering artists such as Tame Impala, Fleet Foxes, and James Blake, but his ambition is certainly not in vain. Some of the songs are the product of years of refinement, others are more recent forays, but all possess a grandeur achieved exclusively through a process of tireless musical fine-tuning.
The performance itself felt remarkably intimate, which is at least partially attributed to Rabalais’ sincere and personal songwriting style. “Throughout the past five years of my life, I’ve learned so much, and what I have learned is written, not always prosaically, in the fabric of my music,” he explains. “I can pinpoint segments of songs and know exactly what mood I was in and what I was feeling at that time to allow me to produce those lyrics, chords or melodies.” Wistful piano, rustic strings, and soft, ambient synths accompanied complex guitar melodies textured with bells and horns, creating sonic cascades that left the crowd visibly awestruck. Of course, even the most ornate descriptors rarely do justice to great music, so this journalist highly recommends giving the EP a listen below.
After such a compelling debut, it’s hard to believe that Aquarius Dreams is just getting started. What’s clear is that the group has nowhere to go but up, as such individual talent rarely coalesces so harmoniously. Make sure to keep an eye out for more, and keep dreaming.