Dreampop is a sound that, while simple, is almost always quite complex. Mixing in elements of minimalism, tempered with the concept of distortion and noise can be quite beautiful, it is no surprise, then, that you cannot really define the genre by one particular sound. Music Fellowship started a three-way split CD series that is meant to introduce blissed-out bands by offering a sample of their musical concept. It's actually a great idea; New Found Land is the first of the series, and is an excellent start for such a lovely concept.
The first band on the album is Yellow6, a Leicestershire guitarist by the name of Jon Attwood. His five soundscapes are quite rich and are very lush and soothing, too. Though it's quite obvious that he not only owes a debt to Cocteau Twins and guitar-sonics mastermind Robin Guthrie, he also owes a great deal to electronica/techno masterworks of such innovators Banco de Gaia, Bark Psychosis and Aphex Twin. Though most of his songs are ambient in nature, Yellow6 mixes up and blurs the lines between shoegaze, dreampop, ambient and new age, and it's never sounded better. Of the three bands, Yellow6 is the most cinematic, enigmatic, and engaging band of the lot. After hearing masterpieces like "Centraal," it's really no surprise, then, that Yellow6 have been involved in soundtrack production.
Rothko, on the other hand, is all about guitars. Unlike the other two bands, Rothko's seven selections are all sections of a larger composition, "Halftones and Metatones." As gorgeous as their most recent album was, this version of Rothko (from 1998, I believe) is a much more electric, energetic experience. If you're looking for the subtle beauty that was found on A Continual Search for Origins, then you might want to look elsewhere. As beautiful as their music has been in the past, the songs found here are a harsher, more disturbing affair, more akin to music found in a psychological thriller. Still, these early tracks are a much different affair than their more recent work.
The final act of New Found Land is Landing, and they differ from the other two acts entirely. First, they're the only American act here; second, they're the only band of the bunch (Rothko is technically a band but these tracks were recorded solo), and they're also the only band with vocals. Their five songs are also quite different from their most recent output; at times, they sound not unlike Pale Saints, and the lo-fi nature of the songs certainly reminds me a bit of The Twin Atlas. "Disappear" is the real winner here; the girl/boy vocals are quite beautiful, and though sonically they're quite different than the other two bands--I'd go so far as to say that they don't really seem to flow with the other two groups, they're still lovely.
All in all, New Found Land is a wonderful little document of three very interesting, excellent bands practicing dream-pop. Music Fellowship has started a wonderful series, and this record is a nice start. Look forward to hearing more from all three bands, as well as from this excellent label.