Kestrels - Dream or Don’t Dream
On Dream or Don’t Dream, Halifax’s Kestrels live out a guitar freak’s wildest fantasies. The supercharged shoegaze rockers’ fourth full-length album not only features soaring solos from Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis, but spellbinding mixing from John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Alvvays, Kurt Vile, Cyndi Lauper) and mastering engineer Greg Calbi (David Bowie, Lou Reed, Television, Blondie). Together, they constructed a towering devotional to tone with blazing riffs, powerhouse drums, and swooning hooks emerging from an enveloping haze.
Since 2008, Kestrels has been the primary project of singer/guitarist Chad Peck, who spends his time offstage as a high school English teacher. For this album he is joined by livewire drummer Michael Catano, the driving force between Maritime math-rock bands North of America, The Plan, and The Holy Shroud, whose credits also include an early stint with Len. Peck’s lulling vocals flash back to influences from My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, or Built to Spill, while Norma MacDonald’s spectral harmonies conjure the sound of a Cocteau Twins/Beach Boys fantasy jam.
Peck began writing Dream or Don’t Dream while staying on the couch of his friend, Ash frontman Tim Wheeler. From here, the album’s instrumental scaffolding was laid down throughout a series of studio sessions at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio in Chicago, Sonelab in Massachusetts, and Sonic Temple in Halifax. He connected with his guitar hero J Mascis after Kestrels played at a bike shop with Dinosaur Jr. The white-haired wizard of riffs recorded seven different takes for album standout “Grey and Blue”, leaving Peck in the surreal position of compiling a Mascis guitar solo.
“I heard some of Kestrels’ influences early on, and they were bands that I really loved too,” says Agnello. “The obvious one was Dinosaur Jr, who I’ve been working with since 1993, so I tried to apply some of the mixing techniques I use on J’s guitar sound. I use a lot of analog pedals and tape delays on all the instruments to give them more warmth and depth than you get with some plug-ins. The idea was to have the guitars jumping out of the speakers without being harsh.”
Dream or Don’t Dream traces a transition in Peck’s life from a low period to one of excitement. Kestrels’ previous 2016 self-titled album was by all means a success, earning critical acclaim from The Fader, Noisey, and BrooklynVegan, charting airplay from CBC Radio 3, KEXP, and the BBC, plus nominations for the ECMA and Music Nova Scotia rock album of the year. – Jesse Locke