Dreaming alongside Sega Bodega

The DJ-producer explores a melodic world between sleeping and waking, probing the unconscious mind on his third album ‘Dennis’

Out of all musical structures, the arpeggio is the closest to a narrative. The series of notes fractures a chord into perpetual rising and falling action. After opening on a hazy dreamscape with “Coma Dennis,” Sega Bodega’s newest album, Dennis, unceremoniously plunges into the arpeggiated rush of “Adulter8.” A crooning voice emerges, blending into the frantic energy of the instrumental—the first introduction to our album’s vocal narrator. Released on April 26th, Dennis lyrically and structurally presents the listener with a story, tracking alongside its protagonist’s day as they struggle to discern between a seemingly never-ending dream and real life. “There’s a lot of different stories on the album.” Sega Bodega explains the record is bookended by two tracks attempting to capture the feeling of “waking up and going to sleep.”

Dreams—and the subconscious from which they spawn—also provide a generative creative well for the artist. Explaining his songwriting process, he remembers “With ‘Tears and Sighs,’ the word that popped out when I was speaking gibberish was ‘seeking.’” Sometimes, without thinking, his lyrics pour out. “There’s no way to describe how it happens and you’re like, Oh, cool. Let’s just keep going.” With a deep catalog of influences (he cites sea shanties, Fontaines D.C., and Kate Bush, to name a few), the conscious mind isn’t enough to parse the extent of his knowledge. Felt, rather than immediately and objectively known, music like Sega Bodega’s is comfortable in this indeterminate space. “When kids who are only listening to hyperpop, house music, or trap to make a song, it’s not going to give me anything new,” he says. “These genres came out of mixing-mashing previous things and having a completely new spin.”

Sega Bodega’s subconscious lens casts him in an almost shamanistic role. There’s something spiritual in his approach; he makes oblique Biblical references, noting Dennis is “sinned” spelled backward. A prolific producer—including for Caroline Polachek, Shygirl, and Björk—he’s familiar with channeling an artistic vision other than his own. An almost primordial process, it feels like he’s divining the music, interpreting it through the Logic interface. He utilizes his voice across the album, but it’s often refracted and muddy, sounding like it’s piercing a veil from another dimension. For example, the atmospheric pad of “Kepko” is a cover of Dido’s “White Flag” reversed and distorted. A step beyond simple sampling, the manipulation of “White Flag” is one of many moments across the album that draw on a force greater than the individual artist. As Dido’s lyrics pass through his body and are encoded into the digital workstation, they’re alchemically transformed.

“Full of dynamic songs built from wide-ranging sonic textures, the album is the perfect place to embed (and discover) hidden worlds.”

The raw power of this musical distillation is evident in Dennis. The songs are bubbling with the latent energy Sega Bodega transferred into them. Animal motifs appear across the project’s imagery and track listings. Combining intense drums, complex melodies, sweeping soundscapes, and heady concepts, the album feels grand, mystical, alive, and wild—like the natural world. In this pseudo-animistic way, the animal-theme is fitting. But he asserts it was a coincidence. “The animal thing didn’t have a meaning then and it doesn’t now either.” Returning to lyrical subconscious gibberish, however, he reveals that the title of “Elk Skin” was born out of its homophonic similarity to the lyrics (“no one else can”). “A lot of times, it all comes together naturally. The project has similarities and moods that appear throughout the whole thing. And you just have to go with it.”

Intent, however—if we subscribe to a subconscious-forward approach to art making—doesn’t matter. In the same way that Dennis is a totalizing narrative, building our protagonist’s dreamy reality, each aspect of the album is subsumed into its universe. Even if Sega Bodega doesn’t know the purpose of his animal imagery, we get the sense that they are part of Dennis’s internal machinations. Full of dynamic songs built from wide-ranging sonic textures, the album is the perfect place to embed (and discover) hidden worlds.

After opening on “Coma Dennis” and cycling through nine tracks, Dennis’s arc lands on “Coma Salv”—with Salv being an abbreviation of his government name, Salvador. As much as the album’s landscape can stand on its own, the injection of his name is a potent closing reminder: few can create, channel, and curate the musical realm as deftly as Sega Bodega.