Dreams can be revelatory, but there’s always a catch. Sometimes you find that the beautiful poetry that came to you in your sleep sounds like nonsense once you open your eyes and write it down. They end at inopportune times, just before you’ve reached your destination or climbed in bed with your crush. You don’t have much control; hence the fascination with “lucid dreaming,” which lets you find your own way around your dream world instead of being jerked around by your subconscious. And then there’s the simple fact that they’re not real and you eventually wake up.
oneiric, the new album by Mari Maurice as more eaze, is interested in that maddening unreality. Its title is an adjective related to dreams or dreaming, and its shifting synth pads and endless-city artwork bring to mind the vaporwave subgenre known as “dreampunk,” but Maurice seems just as inspired by dreams’ bliss-out connotations as the way they seem to communicate to us from the other side of a wall. These six tracks are permeated with voices that bubble just below the threshold of comprehension, and though you could spend a few spins of oneiric just trying to make out what they’re saying, Maurice uses them like Burial, Jan Jelinek or Philip Jeck use static: as a way of both enhancing the texture and heightening the emotional stakes. Maurice has cited an unrequited love as an inspiration for the album, and it’s poignant to picture the splintered language of dreams as a metaphor for never really knowing what to say to someone else.
oneiric derives much of its power from its arrangements, which feel grand and romantic even while hewing close to the ambient drift of previous solo releases Towards a Plane and Yearn. “a romance” sighs with strings, white noise, and undulating pads, occasionally interrupted by a weird, wet, loudly mixed noise that made me think of an accidental stomach gurgle during sex. “the neighborhood” is nearly silent for long stretches, yet its 11-minute length and the sheer beauty of the sounds that do show up—a candle-flicker of guitar in the first half, a blossoming house chord in the second—give this low-lying track the feel of an epic. “a romance” and “the neighborhood” make up more than half of the album’s runtime by themselves, and it’s easy to forget what you’re listening to for a while and let them coil away in your subconscious.
The middle of the album breaks away from the gauzy sweep of the first two tracks by paring down the track lengths to four or five minutes apiece and introducing noisier sounds like a computer-startup harp swell on “heartbreaker” and squealing Auto-Tune on “we don’t talk about it.” (The latter is the only moment on the album to suggest Maurice’s sideline in hyperpop, whose irony and pop-culture literacy oneiric otherwise rejects.) But the vibe picks up again with “crii,” an unnaturally slow minimal house track built around two uncertain little pinpricks of chord, its unquantized beat gradually building but never quite turning into a groove. It’s an almost-banger in the vein of Jan Jelinek’s “Tendency,” too subdued and lethargic for clubs but somehow carrying itself like an anthem.