An Essay on the Subconscious Power of Art through April + VISTA’s ‘Pit of My Dreams’
Evan Dale // March 23, 2021
Much of art, music, and culture at large becomes unnecessarily categorized. It’s the fault of journalism – of which we are undoubtedly a part of – to put effort towards defining the kind of indefinable qualities that make humans human – that make the arts art. Expression of the human – of the construct that is objective reality through experience – breeds myriad reflections and portrayals of an inner, deeper self more easily communicated and ultimately understood through art, through music, through culture as a whole, than it is through the simplicity of the written word or the tidiness of the organized shelf. Human expression – born from the mind not fully understood by conscious appeal, but instead better through a subconscious entanglement of connections – makes art indefinable and makes the attempted boxing in of the arts piece by piece – makes genrefication – an illusion appealing to the conscious. Thankfully, some works of art, some musical projects – celebrated for their experimental nuance – bring quickly to mind just how trivial the attempt to categorize culture is, for they are such complex mosaics of subconscious expression, that they defy expectation and definition by any standardized or established journalistic expression to do exactly that.
DC area duo, April + VISTA released their debut project, You Are Here, to widespread acclaim in 2018. The 8-track EP is to this day a remarkable introduction to the rangy musical sensitivities of each April, VISTA, and April + VISTA together. A vocalist, pianist, and violinist, the former’s crystalline register and silky vocal runs play in perpetual harmony with the foundations of the latter: a bassist and producer whose complex, textural backdrops seem to suspend time, and alongside April, replace time with immersive emotion. In doing so, both are perhaps best delineated by their preferred descriptors: composers, or as the more ethereal: auditory painters. As a debut project – and as a project in general – You Are Here bleeds of its title for it bleeds of a groundedness in the act of being present. Present within the immersive, timeless space of the project’s fluid boundaries; a listener aided by its sweet and subtle emotionality to be more present as You Are Here soundtracks a human moment, the debut sets a precedent of music’s deeper effect beyond a conscious item, and into a liquid web capable of connecting to any individual listener’s more complex subconscious. In more appealing terms, what still feels like a Springtime breeze to me – the kind that carries a sweetness of budding flora along a jet of air still chilled by Winter’s breath – may instead sound like golden hour light or remembrances of childhood Summertime – to someone else.
With new project, Pit of My Dreams, April + VISTA are again exploring and exhibiting music’s most intuitive human adherences, albeit in a completely reoriented direction. If You Are Here was a celebration of and an auditory drug aiding in a listener’s relationship with the idea of presence, Pit of My Dreams explores another overlooked human relationship with self: dreams. The project feels, and thus inwardly connects, to the opposite end of the human spectrum than did April + VISTA’s debut. Just as powerful, just as daringly defying of the constructs of genre, Pit of My Dreams feels to me like the foggy, racing, and disorienting moments towards sleep, but not yet asleep, after a day that in some way or another wracked brain with an unending stream of conscious thought, attempted to be made sense of – connected to – by the subconscious before sleep is quite possible. To someone else, it may feel like the vivid color that seems only possible in the human’s oft-colorless dreams – beyond the palette of our mind’s representation to the world in front of us, and into the nightmarish – albeit enlightening – spiderweb of our brain’s deeper workings.
To achieve that shift in direction – that 180 in subconscious connection from the peace of the present towards the dizzying nonreality of the inwardly immersed – April + VISTA submerge their listeners in a new lane of musical experimentation. Still bleeding with vocally crystalline pleas from April, still riding the rails of textural genius from VISTA and a mosaic of instrumental prowess, Pit of My Dreams is another display of nondescript compositional range from the duo. But tinging with an influx of spacey, electronic nuance over the rawer, more classic instrumentation of You Are Here; garnished with an atmospheric relationship with their own world-building – from lyricism reminiscent to the inner dialogue psychedelia brings, to an underlining production steeped in the echoes and darkness of a basement – Pit of My Dreams embodies its title to extent. But it’s not all dreamy and nightmarish nonreality that makes the project so beautiful, immersive, and unique. It’s also a conscious organization of the composition’s structure that aids in April + VISTA’s ability to break open and make free the minds of their listeners.
But that was only because in so many ways during the project's inception, they were themselves searching for a way to break free from newfound struggles. Speaking on the project, April told us that 'VISTA actually coined the title “Pit of My Dreams” because [they] felt suspended in between the best and worst parts of [their] lives—it was very frustrating for [them' to feel like we were finally living our dream of being touring musicians, writing what [they] thought was the best music [they'd] ever written while still battling darker external factors, like being tethered to draining 9-5 jobs or dealing with death/loss over the course of 2020. It felt like finally breaking free from a cage, only to fall from the bottom of it into complete darkness.'
Akin to You Are Here, Pit of My Dreams benefits immensely from intermissionary inclusions, monologue, and their connections to the music at large. 8 tracks long and 18-minutes – as is exactly the skeleton of You Are Here – Pit of My Dreams exists as antithesis to April + VISTA’s debut. Though subconsciously fluid and appealing to the connective tissues of our sensitivities, You Are Here pushed for presence through the peace of the subconscious. Striving for the exploration of the subconscious itself, their latest delves in the darker, less-understood mesh of subconscious thought – of dreams – of nightmares. It’s monologuing moments – Spite the Face, Pit of My Dreams – bring clarity to the project’s direction, while its meandering musical and artful focus leaves it completely devoid of established description through genre.
At least for me, I always see things as this black and white type of thing where you have the good stuff and then you have the bad stuff. But then, in ‘22degreehalo’ I’m sucked into this vortex which tells me there’s no either or – they exist at the same time – and one thing that is good is also bad, too. And that’s not right. And that’s not wrong. Some of the stuff that you think is just amazing and awesome may not actually be that. But I don’t know what to make of that. That doesn’t mean you can’t stop fighting for what is right. I don’t know. It’s just a mind fuck. [titular track].
Subconscious and artful clarity through the disoriented attempt to unscramble a conscious dichotomy, April’s monologuing intermission is a perfect representation of the complex musical mindfucks at work throughout Pit of My Dreams. Experimental as their debut – probably even musically more so – April + VISTA prove that genre does not exist, and that music can free the mind by pushing a listener expressly outwards towards the present, or drowning them inwards with an array of submersive subconscious.