"During sleep, a process controlled in part by the body's use of the chemical Melatonin, our brain functions in a markedly different fashion to our waking life. As an example, reading is noted by many sleep researchers to be a quite unusual process, whereby words simply fall off the page, their graphical meaning abstracted as various sections of the brain recline into states of rest. Something similar is true for sounds we hear generated within dreams. The way in which incidental atmospheres complement, interrupt or interfere with our sleep suggests a new set of understandings. It is these concepts that are explored here in a deeply personal and reflective manner."
Lawrence English, October 2003.
The Room 40 crew has amassed an impressive list of names for this two-disc set billed as "meditations on sound in sleep," and the prospect of new tracks from Oren Ambarchi, DJ Olive, DJ/Rupture, Scanner, David Toop, and Janek Schaefer ought to be enough to sell the disc on its own. Really everyone here brings it, with solid tracks from lesser-known artists that are equally impressive and often more inventive than those from their well-known counterparts. The theme is broad enough as to allow a wide range of interpretations without dictating any particular mode of composition. The two basic approaches to the idea seem to be physiological—that of capturing or recreating sound as heard through the muffled filter of sleep, and psychological—that of playing with the noises and music of dream states and the subconscious. There are the expected slow, sleepy drones and dreamy chimes (Al Yamamoto, Steinbrüchel, Zane Trow, Barret, Musgrove & Sinclair), but the project also offers some more out-there takes as well, such as Skist's shrill whine accompanied by non-sequitur female vocals, Timeblind's ridiculously time-stretched speech, and David Toop's spooky dream narration. John Chantler starts disc two off with a delightfully fun recording of his microwave that transforms into a cheeky beep-beat before giving way to drums and guitar: not something I would have expected on a disc devoted to experimental musicians composing tracks about sleeping sounds. Philip Samartzis turns in a location recording, while Martin Ng & Tetuzi Akiyama give us the obligatory microtonal sine wave ear workout. If i never hear a piercing sine wave composition again, it'll be okay with me. Scanner gives up a synth-heavy piece with some instructional voice-over through delay that recalls his Spore-era work, while Frost plays with fuzzy dream guitar and simple piano figures that are understated and beautiful. DJ/Rupture takes the path least travelled by producing a mix of beats and samples that implies that what he hears while sleeping are the muffled, fractured pieces of his record collection banging together into a mix. In the realm of experimental music, these kinds of collections too often offer artists a chance to pad an already overstuffed discography with throw-away pieces and under-realized mixes. Not so, here. Room 40 manages to wrangle up some top talent at the top of their game for an engaging and repeatable listen.
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