I feel like one of my personal themes in the past few months has been self-improvement. One of the habits I’ve forced myself to pick up has been dream journaling. Admittedly, like most of the overly ambitious goals I dreamed up this summer, this one didn’t really take as much as I’d anticipated. But, I will say that even if I didn’t always get around to scribbling some incoherent story about learning to water bend with my pet lion in the Bahamas, I have been paying closer attention to my dreams. Or at least to how my dreams made me feel. I guess in a lot of ways, that’s what makes dreams so affecting: the emotional symbolism and resonance they hold, the fantastical ways in which your hidden fantasies manifest into vivid scenes, if only for a brief moment.
Brooklyn-based duo, Iska Dhaaf, put their dreams on sonic display in their latest release, “Crying in Your Sleep.” Dreamy electronic pulses layer delicately to create an ethereal atmosphere for Benjamin Verdoes’s tender vocals to croon over. “Love, I’ve been thinking / What’s this life that we’re living / It’s true, I’ve been untrue / It’s not fair, but I told you, don’t keep me here,” he pleads. Though always gentle, Verdoes’s voice lifts at the end of the first verse, a swell revealing something between desperation and indignation. He reminds us of the two-faced nature of dreams: as warm and beautiful as they can be, they can also be painful. Stay trapped in a bad dream and you’ll be “crying in your sleep” too, pleading to be released.
The second verse takes on a persistent percussive beat and a pulsing bassline, injecting an eager vigor to the song. This time, though, instead of hesitantly expressing his own worries he probes his lover’s brain. “Love, what you thinking?” Verdoes asks earnestly. “It’s not like I believe we can see the future,” he admits. “It’s not like I believe in fate.” In an inversion of the dream-as-omen trope, Verdoes asserts his self-determination, resolving to believe in his own actions rather than allowing something as fleeting as dreams or fate dictate his choices.
Even as the song gains fervor and the tempo picks up, it never loses its tender core. “Crying in your sleep / crying in your sleep,” he sings, over and over again. With warm sincerity, this song plays as a lullaby, like Verdoes is whispering these words to you as you slowly begin to enter the dream world.
Nathan Quiroga and Benjamin Verdoes shine on this dreamy record, a combination of heavenly production and purely genuine lyrics and delivery. Their name, Iska Dhaaf, translated from Somali means, roughly, “let it go”—here, they remind us, when your dreaming gets too tough, it’s okay to just let it go.