Canadian multi-instrumentalist Rick Miller has always been one for mellow music. Beginning his work in the eighties with the new age record “Starsong”, Rick has gone on to make a series of albums, often drawing comparisons to the work of Pink Floyd, and for good reason. “Dark Dreams” is another warming addition to this saga, capitalizing on his soulful guitar style and artistic maturity.
The comparisons to Pink Floyd are well founded, although I think I would take it one step closer and liken Miller’s work to Floyd guitarist David Gilmour’s solo career, particularly “On An Island”. The music here is fleshed out with atmosphere, built around melancholic songwriting, and brought to life through Miller’s lead guitar, of which listeners will hear much of. Although his voice is somewhat plain, Rick uses it well, and his songwriting- often graced with satirical lyrics- works with his subdued vocal approach. Like many other, more laid-back vocalists in prog rock- notably Steven Wilson- Rick Miller distinguishes his vocal talent through beautiful vocal harmonies. The key to his talent lies in the guitar, however. Although much of the album’s forty-five minutes is allocated to the more structured elements of his songwriting, he never forgets to give some breathing room for his guitar, home to some of the most tasteful soloing I’ve heard in a while.
Above all, I may be most impressed by the way Miller has produced his work. After having worked in a recording studio for some time, it’s clear that this experience has translated well in his work, resulting in a gorgeous sound for “Dark Dreams”. With particular regards to his vocal harmonies, Rick’s ear for mixing is spot-on. Of course- much like the songwriting- the sound of “Dark Dreams” sticks itself within a fairly tight room. Barring the ethnic ambiance that bookends the record, listeners can expect to hear a fairly straightforward course of melancholic rock, rarely deviating from the slow to mid-tempo pace. For the intents of a ‘chill out’ album, “Dark Dreams” does not suffer loss, but it would have been nice to hear Rick Miller’s artistic vision broadened. His talent and skill of engineering is very evident, but the sense of restraint is never broken.
Needless to say, fans of David Gilmour’s solo work will love what Rick Miller offers; Rick certainly delivers many of the same traits and qualities that make the former such an icon. “Dark Dreams” rarely leaps out or seeks to surprise, but it creates a warm, welcoming atmosphere for one to sit down and relax to, and I think that’s what Miller set out to do all along.
1. Return to Uqbar (6:13)
2. Angels in the Forest (8:17)
3. When the Evening Comes (2:56)
4. Whispers (5:23)
5. The Transcension (2:26)
6. Quiet Desperation (6:48)
7. Hear the Ocean Roar (3:24)
8. Man Out of Time (5:19)
9. The One (Reincarnate) (4:22)
* Rick Miller – vocals, various instruments
* Barry Haggarty – guitars
* Kane Miller – guitars, violin
* Mateusz Swoboda – cello
* Nancy Foote – flute
* Will – drums, percussion