In These Storms...

Hypnagogue Reviews - October 17th, 2015

One guy, his guitar, a bunch of effects, and a whole lot of soul. That’s the equation behind In These Storms. Looping and layering his way into bright, uptempo post-rock melodies, Dave Preston follows the roadmap he first laid out on Be and Soundtrack for Motion. I feel I have to note up front that through the many times I have listened to and enjoyed this album, both in repeated review listens and in shuffled listens to my entire review queue, I’ve found that I enjoy it slightly more as an element that pops up to shine in a mix. Preston exhibits a masterful hand in building each song; it’s just that, for me, in a straight-through listen, the way each rises via repeating phrases becomes almost too expected. Taken on their own, however, every piece here has its own fresh character, its own message, and is fully engaging in its own way. Preston modulates his energy as he goes. “Fire” is about the highest-velocity track here, with a guitar that sounds like a hybrid of The Edge and David Gilmour (think “Run Like Hell”). Big power chords augment the bridge, and a galloping phrase rushes across the low strings. A steady bass drum beat intensifies “The Circle Around the Sphere.” The song’s central phrase has its own sense of urgency. Underneath, countering the push toward power, is a downplayed ambient swirl. And while we’re talking about catchy tracks and their beats, let’s listen to “Hologram.” A shuffling house beat snaps over a speedy arpeggio before mutated chords softly empower the melody. Listen closely to pick up some excellent textural work. The closing track, “Unity,” has a lot of the same sensibility. With a beat played on what sounds like a goblet drum, a pair of guitar loops share the lead. The sound is sunshine-bright and rich with harmony. On the quieter, more reflective side, “A Cared For Memory” sings a sweet ballad with an assist from a lovely vocal sample. Preston defaults to soft, sweeping chords here and lets their smooth resonance carry the feeling. “An Old Connection” skews more to the ambient side of things. Kicking off with the well-remembered sound of a dial-up modem reaching out to find the interwebs, this piece shimmers its way along. Reverse-echo notes and warbling chords chart the path, with a very subtle shaker sound keeping time in the undercurrent.

As I said, I do prefer these pieces individually—or along with a few of their compatriots—but that is not to say that this isn’t a good album. It’s very good, and when you add it to your library, these songs are going to jump up and shine. I have been a Dave Preston fan since he first impressed me with Be, and I’ve been waiting five years for him to follow up on Soundtrack… This album was quite definitely worth the wait, and it’s one that will keep a favored position in my own library. Beautiful songs, expert playing, seamless construction, and—like I said at the start—a whole lot of big, honest soul. Add this one to your collection now.

Available from Dave Preston’s web site.

Westord Publication - November 12th 2016

Dave Preston on Ambient Music, Justin Timberlake and In These Storms

Dave Preston.
Dave Preston.
Jordan Holloway

Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Dave Preston recently released his first ambient album in five years. The luminously evocative In These Storms is Preston's third ambient release, following 2008's Be and 2010's Soundtrack for Motion. Rather than the synth or beat-driven sounds often associated with the ambient style, Preston's music features organic sounds played and mixed in a way that can suggest otherwise while still imbued with a refreshing immediacy. Think Cocteau Twins or Harold Budd rather than Aphex Twin or Klara Lewis. 

Born Dave Amidei, Preston grew up in the Denver area and got into playing live music in 2001 at sixteen with his first band, The Echo. The act included his older brother Michael on bass and Chris Durant on drums. Preston describes it as more of a rock band than some of what he's done since — but that early band experience led to a key realization when he was just eighteen that many lifelong musicians never attain. 

“My first month of doing music full-time, I figured out that in order to make a living, you can't just play out as yourself every night,” Preston says. “You have to do other things, so I played guitar for other people.”

And so Preston threw himself into a variety of experiences: open mikes, jazz gigs, sitting in with singer-songwriters, playing assorted sessions and generally getting as much and as varied a spate of experiences as possible. That led to Preston's performing with Rob Drabkin, Britt Rodemich, Xiren, Katy Laurel and the Samples, and even at a private event as a member of Kelly Clarkson's band. In turn, all of that led him back to pursuing more minimal music in ambient. “I would take one note and find out how far that note would take me,” says Preston. 

“One day I get a call from Matt, and he said he had just written lyrics to one of my ambient songs and that Justin loved it and wanted to produce it. He's texting me from the session, and he keeps saying all the nice things Timberlake is saying. It was surreal, in a way. I was never a huge fan, but you never think recording in your house is going to go worldwide and that someone of that caliber will hear it,” Preston recalls.

“The first time I met Justin was in L.A., and Matt was getting ready to go on the Ellen Degeneres show, and he asked me to come along and do the rehearsal with him,” continues Preston. “He said that Justin will probably come along as well. So I'm in the room, holding a baritone guitar — which I've never played — and I knew I was collaborating with something but I don't know what. Justin walks in, and he has an entourage, which is what it is. And the first thing he says is, 'Anyone who doesn't play an instrument, get out of the room.' I was like, 'Okay, I like this guy.' He's really calm and nice. He talks about Matt's album, but he says especially one particular song. On Be it's called 'Be Joy'; on Matt's album, When Everything Breaks Open, it's called 'Just Before the Morning.' Justin is saying, 'Man, I love “Just Before the Morning,” and Matt points at me and says, 'That's Dave.' Justin stands up and says, 'I love your Be album.' From that point on, it felt like Justin stopped seeing me as a session guitarist and rather as an artist in my own right. Which in this world is everything. It means people respect your opinion more.”

But Preston didn't just meet Timberlake. Due to terrible events in Haiti that month, he performed in front of an international audience with the former member of N*SYNC. "The week we did Ellen in Los Angeles, this bad earthquake happened in Haiti,” recalls Preston. “There was that big telethon George Clooney put on, and he asked Justin to do it. During rehearsal, Justin asked all of us if we wanted to do that telethon. So we played 'Hallelujah,' the Leonard Cohen song, in front of 68 million people, obviously televised. It took a side project in ambient music to take me to this new level.”

These days, Preston still plays several gigs a month to make a living. But his gift for making abstract music accessible, in addition to his ability to play multiple styles, likely means he'll be back on the national music scene. In the meantime, he's enjoying being a father and the reaction to In These Storms. That release, as well as Preston's other albums, can be purchased as a download at CD Baby or iTunes