"Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters" is lauded by Japan fans as perhaps the best of Karn's work-- while this may well largely be because of the presence of Japan frontman David Sylvian on two tracks (Japan drummer Steve Jansen contributes throughout), this is not altogether far from accurate. Certainly, its the most consistent of Karn's albums and amongst the best work he's done. One of the things that separates this record from his early work outside of Japan is that Karn is now working at expressing himself as a composer as much as a bassist-- yeah, there's some jaw dropping bass playing on here, but that largely is less important than style and mood, and this album has loads of both.
The pieces with Sylvian are actually quite similar in sound and tempo. "Buoy" is a great pop song, with effective lyrics and vocals from Sylvian over a detailed arrangement and watery bass playing from Karn and typically brilliant but understated drumming from Jansen. "When Love Walks In" falls a little shorter, its so similar in feel that comparisons are inevitable.
The remainder of the album is primarily mood pieces-- haunting and darkness is a pretty common thread on this one, with the opener ("First Impressions", featuring a loping bass and fantastic horn arrangement) and two closing tracks (the dark and relentless "Dreams of Reason" and the boy-choir over organ of "Answer") firmly establishing a nightmare vision. But its the most delicate, hopeful, and subtle of the tracks, "Language of Ritual" that is the real gem here. Totally devoid of any bass playing, this one features beautiful reed playing (first delicate clarinet and evidentually a wailing alto sax) over tribal drumming and simple piano lines, its effecting, inspiring, and brilliant. The remainder of the album is decent enough, but not extraordinary-- two mood instrumentals that don't stand out much on their own.
Its got its shortcomings, and it may be better for Sylvian fans than Karn fans, but overall this is a rewarding album and well worth a listen.