Sleep ∞ Over Forever

[Hippos In Tanks; 2011]

Styles: dream pop, experimental, heavenly voices, kosmische, lo-fi synth
Others: Cocteau Twins, Chromatics, Kindest Lines, School of Seven Bells

“Isn’t it too dreamy?” Where the publicity material for Forever references Julee Cruise — and not inaccurately — one thinks rather of this line, and of Twin Peaks’ mingling of sci-fi and the sylvan supernatural with the horrors of human cruelty. We find ourselves in a realm somewhere between heavens “turning by themselves,” populated by flying saucers, and the lifeworld-bound closed doors and tears that can reference either romance or depravity. Our (spirit) guide manifests in the form of Austin’s Stefanie Franciotti (who encapsulates the mood of the piece in her description of the tortured process of writing lyrics as “a one-way ticket to dark baby land”). The idea of a ticket — or perhaps Charon’s obol — also indicates the way in which the album must be experienced as an unfolding, both over its course and over the course of the historical listening process.

Forever alternates between atmospheric moments ranging from guitar drones to ambient industrial and sweet, slow synth songs. These latter call to mind the best of the ethereal/heavenly voices style that the 90s had to offer (a wreath that, for my money, would crown Love Spirals Downwards), with just the slightest hint of a darker scrape and echoing space beneath). There is a sense in Franciotti’s vocals that, rather than being sung to, we as listeners are overhearing a private lullaby, giving rise to the marginal guilt of the unwitting voyeur. And since Sleep ∞ Over began as a trio, this sensibility of perverse and melancholy isolation may not be inappropriate.

While Franciotti’s work is far from unique in its revival both of lo-fi synth panoramas and of ambient experimentalism, the combination and alternation of the two allows Forever a certain originality beyond other musicians mining either one or the other vein. But here also there is a sense of disconnectedness that is less satisfactory than the same mood contained within the music itself, inasmuch as this dialectic constantly seems to be reaching for a synthesis that remains unrealized — though it’s best captured in the shift from slow grind to disembodied vocal erotics on “Casual Diamond.” Teasing hints of our aforementioned unfolding further revealing itself are evident particularly in moments where the synth lines bend and distort, purposefully disfiguring the music’s beauty for a moment both fleeting and fearful. But our embryonic somnambulist flees too elusively

Speaking of desire and its impossible object, your humble scribe was sadly disappointed to find that the track titled “Crying Game” was not a cover of the song made famous first by Dave Berry and then Boy George in Neil Jordan’s film of the same name. But the themes of Jordan’s piece — identity, beauty, deception, and violence, inextricably intermingled — could also characterize Forever, even if we may hope for a further tightening of this Gordian knot (to mix myths and metaphors, we mean to pursue Ariadne’s red thread, even if it seems to lead in rather than out of Franciotti’s labyrinth). One day soon she’s gonna tell the moon…

Links: Sleep ∞ Over - Hippos In Tanks

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