Thursday, 15 February 2018

Sleep Decade – Collapse

While I can identify plenty of beloved precedents for Sleep Decade’s new album Collapse – Bark Psychosis, Low and Slint come to mind – there’s a dark magic at work here that makes it unique, rather than a studied retread of atmospheric guitar music of years gone by. Everything about Collapse feels carefully considered to extract maximum resonance from minimum instrumental ingredients – and the effects are devastating.

Upon first listen there’s an immediate sense of weight to the sound, thanks to meticulous production work from Casey Hartnett, Nick Huggins and Lawrence Greenwood, and mastering by the legendary Rashad Becker. However, Collapse is no one-dimensional doom-fest. The poised performances and enveloping low end are counterbalanced beautifully by the vulnerability of Hartnett’s vocals, especially when he is joined by Laura Baxter on ‘Bind Particles’ and ‘Hologram’ to trace out the lyrics’ faintly hopeful refrains. Quicksilver bursts of brass, woodwinds and synthesizer shine aching light on these emotive soundscapes.

Bookended by instrumentals, the songwriting on Collapse constantly feels threatened by entropy, with both ‘Transparent’ and ‘Bind Particles’ bleeding out in gaseous swells of tone. On the climactic ‘Exploding Suns’, a more destructive force leans in to clear a path, but rather than erupt into a cathartic storm of fuzz and noise, the restraint is unbelievable, reminiscent of how Earth sustain such churningly slow, gouging tempos. On the concluding title track, there’s no sense of resolution, just dissolution as billowing clouds of synth and brass lay waste to the sonic field.

A deeply immersive listen, and occasionally overwhelming, Collapse is definitely worth investing time in. It’s far from a summery experience, but as the Australian autumn approaches, I foresee spending plenty of fruitful headphone hours exploring its shadowy depths.

[Collapse is available in digital and vinyl formats from Sleep Decade’s Bandcamp page.]

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