Editors – In Dream (Album Review)

The story of Editors is an interesting one. Within the borders of England, where they originally hail from, the band are at best only able to pull smaller crowds in theatres and clubs. However, once you cross the Channel and venture into Holland and Belgium, Tom Smith and co. are suddenly able to sell out arenas and headline festivals. With four successful albums having been put out over the last ten years, all ranging from stadium rock to indie and electro, the band will today release their introspective fifth album, In Dream.

The record, which was recorded in the Scottish hideaway of Crear, opens on the subdued No Harm. Earlier this year, the track was discovered by a fan after being hidden within a PIAS compilation. This craftily planned marketing technique signalled the beginning of the In Dream era, as well as the subsequent return to flourishing melancholic electronica. “I boil easier than you, crush my bones into gloop” sings Smith on its opening line, adding “I’m a go-getter”. His deep, recognizable vocals are underpinned by arpeggio synth lines and occasional percussive flourishes, with his voice flittering between deep murmurs and Thom Yorke-esque falsettos. Just as with 2009’s In This Light and on This Evening, Editors have again taken an extremely
synth-based approach to making music. A lone bass enters the frame halfway, although it’s soon drowned out by a fast pulsating build-up. Smith’s vocals remain the same, with everything else swelling up around him on one hell of an eerie album opener. A more upbeat piano opens Ocean of Night, the chords sounding vibrant and playful as they make way for a pulsating wave of synths and Smith’s demure vocal tone. “This is your ocean, the ocean of night” sings Smith, before a more audible bassline and percussion enter the frame. It’s more upbeat than No Harm, even if its build up isn’t as intense and blissful. Ocean of Night focuses more on powerful instrumental sections and swerving melodies, the latter of which enters halfway alongside an almost danceable drum beat and handclaps. Rachel Goswell, vocalist of shoegaze outfit Slowdive, also features in the background here for the first of her various appearances throughout In Dream. Ocean of Night ends on a rather hopeful note, with everything kicking back in to full force towards the end. Forgiveness follows, and it’s probably the only resting remain of Editors’ previous album, 2013’s The Weight of Your Love. A heavily distorted guitar riff and pulsating bassline are the joint focal points on this track, with Smith’s vocals more playful and vibrant. It’s one of the best songs on the record, managing to combine In Dream’s effervescent beauty with stadium-ready riffs and musical passages.

Another continuation of Editors’ most recent output is the inclusion of strings, which Salvation utilizes to a strong extent. Opening string quartet flourishes and underlying synths wails are at the core of this track, although once the chorus shows up it’s very clear that this track is nothing less than an anthem. “Salvation!” declares Smith as a deep percussive boom accompanies him, with the following verse going back down a more subdued path. “Son you were made to suffer” sings Smith ahead of the second chorus, the track only getting bigger and better as it progresses. New single Life is a Fear follows, injecting some energy into the record as it reaches a halfway point. Here, there’s a heavy emphasis on buzzing basslines, programmed drums and Smith’s vocals. It’s the first instance on In Dream where Smith’s voice becomes instantly recognizable again, in particular during the massive chorus. As the song builds up, more synths enter the frame and help enable the track to become a beautiful cacophony of noise. Life is a Fear is probably the best song on the record, although as In Dream progresses that choice only becomes tougher to make. The Law makes further use of programmed drums, as well as intriguing percussion and grimy synth wobbles. It’s another step further than what the band put out in 2009, something in particular down to Smith’s altered vocals. Rachel Goswell features here once again, yet this time her vocals feature centre stage as opposed to in the background. Goswell is the first guest vocalist to ever feature on an Editors song, and her sickly sweet harmonies with Smith sound like they were almost made for one another. “Don’t let it get heavy, you are the law” sings Goswell, before an extended synth-based solo makes the track reach an almost hypnotic peak. Our Love subsequently follows at a faster pace, making use of Bee Gees-esque vocals and a slightly disco sounding percussive beat to demonstrate Editors’ first proper foray into danceable music. Smith utilizes a falsetto for the most part, with the upbeat instrumentals perfectly complementing him. “I always knew” sings the frontman repeatedly throughout the track, before a (subtle?) reference to 80s rock appears as Smith starts singing, “don’t stop believing”. Whether or not this was a conscious nod to classic rockers Journey we don’t know, but what we do know is that Our Love is a definite banger.

As In Dream reaches its closing stages, All the Kings harks back to Editors circa 2009 thanks to its interesting instrumental backing and Smith’s playful vocals. “The place that we met was haunted by thieves” sings Smith as the track builds up in urgency and intensity. “The beat of your heart was alone in the dark” continues the frontman in a line which may well be pretty representative of In Dream’s introvert-like atmosphere. As All the Kings reaches it end, the song takes a turn for the euphoric thanks to swirling synths, anthemic vocals and a powerful percussive undertone. Penultimate track At All Cost is once again slower, utilizing a fairly subdued bassline and glowing synths during the intro. “I’ve got nothing to say to my oldest friends” declares Smith early on, before the track slowly but surely introduces layer after layer. “Don’t let it get lost” continues Smith, although by this point it’s quite clear that At All Cost isn’t going to explode in the same fashion that No Harm did. It’s a picturesque track, and it makes perfect way for seven minute long album closer Marching Orders. In a similar way to how No Harm set the scene for the rest of In Dream, Marching Orders seemingly completes the cycle with euphoric synths and an earth-shattering tearjerker of an ending. The synths here are sharper and more notable, with Smith’s vocals at an all time high. “Even though you fucked up, there’s still the makings of a dreamer in you” he sings as the programmed instruments around him all start to build up in a cataclysmic fashion. A pounding piano line and progressive drumbeat subsequently enter the frame as Smith wails his way through a humongous chorus, with there being no words left describe Marching Order’s sheer beauty. By the end of the song, you’re guaranteed to be left in tatters in one way or another. On In Dream, Editors have provided what could well be their masterpiece. It might not exactly be the upbeat indie rock of debut album The Back Room (their breakthrough as a band); rather, it’s the sound of a band who learnt how to grow up and make proper use of everything in their power. Whether or not it’ll send them into stratospheric reaches across new territories remains to be seen, but it’s still worth noting that this record can only see the band head in one direction – upwards.


In Dream is out now through PIAS.