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Alt.Eighties: Dreampop Origins

September 12, 2023

Dream pop, a sub-genre of post punk and alternative rock music is often claimed to be an 80s phenomenon. Influenced by neo-psychedelia, ambient, and electronic music, dream pop is characterized by its ethereal soundscapes and melodic vocals. The Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil are often credited as pioneers of the genre, paving the way for bands like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive in the ’90s.
However deeper investigation will reveal its early traces in the 60s psychedelia movement pioneered by influential bands such as The Velvet Underground. Their 1967 debut The Velvet Underground & Nico incorporated what music critic Marc Beamount terms “psychedelic dream pop” in addition to a variety of other styles. 1960s band the Byrds would also influence the “swoony harmonies” of later British dream pop groups.
Dream pop is known for its atmospheric and immersive sound that transcends traditional musical structures. The genre typically features shimmering guitars, lush synthesizers, and reverb-drenched vocals that create a sense of spaciousness and otherworldliness. The overall effect is an enchanting sonic experience that transports listeners to a dreamlike state.
Dream pop is a totally “immersive” music experience for the listener.
Rolling Stone magazine describes “modern dream pop” as originating with the early 1980s work of Cocteau Twins and their contemporaries. The 1984 album It’ll End in Tears by 4AD’s “dream-pop supergroup” This Mortal Coil was conceived by label head Ivo Watts-Russell and featured members of Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. The album helped “set the template for dream pop” and associated the formerly gothic-affiliated UK label with the style.
This week on Alt.Eighties its an immersive sonic journey through the music of those ‘modern dream pop’ originators, The Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, Jesus and Mary Chain, Durutti Column and other influential contemporaries.