If dream-pop is meant to invoke a hypnagogic state, OMBRE’s Believe You Me could be a transcription of REM-sleep itself. Pulsing between weightless ambience and muted Latin structures, the duo’s debut floats around, twists itself into hard forms, forgets where it’s been, and loses itself in the air again. Combining the exploratory curiosity of the Books with the ambient sensibilities of Brian Eno, Eluvium, and Dntel, Believe You Me stands as a patient, innovative record in a time that often rewards the hasty and derivative.
The songs on Believe You Me are as likely to be powered by a scratchy glitch-beat as by nylon guitars and rolling snares. OMBRE have spliced together two worlds that were unlikely to otherwise meet: experimental ambient and Latin American beats. Julianna Barwick brings the disembodied loops, Helado Negro the southern Floridian heat. It’s possible to trace each sound on the record to one member of the duo or the other, but its binary quality does little to distract from its overall unity. Instead of a conflict, Believe You Me flows as a conversation, the result of two very different artists learning from each other in a space of mutual respect and free creativity.
And while it sleeps hard the whole time, Believe You Me never bores. Unlike many novice attempts at ambient and dream-pop, there are enough dynamics contained within that the record feels like a subconscious adventure, not a coma. On opener “Noche Brilla,” guitars ring and horns croon atop church-choir swaths in what could be the soundtrack to a Tale of Tales game or a quiet, reflective environmental documentary. “Sense” wafts wordless celestial choruses over a glitched-out keyboard line, while “Cara Falsa” revolves warm pads around a scratchy analog beat. “Weight Those Words” and “Tormentas” stand out as the record’s most structured and most distinctively Latin tracks, and even they retain the deep calm of a good dream.
Saying that Believe You Me is a headphones record would be like saying that Avatar is probably better on the big screen. Headphones are not recommended; they’re required. At no point should you let any of the songs on OMBRE’s debut LP touch the air. Divert them directly from your computer through your best Audio-Technicas into your head and let the record’s subtleties sink into you. It takes its time, but its rewards are plentiful.