“Complex, but it has all the attributes to be tamed chapter by chapter”
1 *hypnonaut 11:40
2 *last igloo before darkness 8:38
3 *and miles to go before I sleep 6:21
4 *moth of the outernet 4:18
5 *we are sleep 14:29
6 *pyjama hippie society 10:45
7 *somnotopia 6:33
8 *schlaf strahler - sleep radiator 16:00
(DDL 78:48) (V.F.)
(Dark ambient, cinematic)
Today, I propose you an unusual musical experience. Behind a splendid front artwork represented by a painting of the French painter Eugène Anatole Carrière, Sleep 1986, hides a big 79 minutes of electronic music (EM) which wants to be a journey into Nico Walser's space of the auditory sleep. This keyboardist of Electric Mud has a solo project since 2018 named Giant Skeletons. Here, at least on this album, there are no borders! Only dreams set to music and in different sound forms that take the listener on a disturbing journey to the heart of the German musician's dreams. The rhythms? They are rare and take rather the form of cadenced ritornellos which turn mostly in hypnotic circles. The atmospheres are drawn from unrealism, if an art form could have this name. A fan of nature recordings, Nico Walser immerses his music in tones with different meanings between the thinker and the one who collects the thoughts. This results in atmospheres where darkness takes on a different form under different tonal colors. The very creative sound effects create atmospheres that can easily be mistaken for a vision of horror, if not to threatening ambiences for the mental balance. We must not forget that we are in the head of a sleeper here. Although aware that SLEEP TIDES has nothing to do with the genre, its black and white theatrical side plunges us into the unconsciousness of a forgotten fear on a path that we never wanted to take again. Chronicle of an album whose charms are insidious!
Splendid, *hypnonaut immediately places us in the troubling context of SLEEP TIDES. On a synth wave that flickers in the background, and whose translucent texture puts us in a purely sibylline ambience, Nico Walser sticks this haunting English nursery rhyme Row Row Your Boat. No words, just the humming that embellishes the atmosphere with a texture more diabolical than childish. The impression of having entered the head of Electric Mud's keyboardist is more than tangible. The music is woven in the shadow of sound effects and obituary synth layers that wave like a pennant in search of wind. We see this lonely sailor going through winds and tides while humming this ditty as his life is about to end. Terrifying and simply haunting! The track breaks down into an atmospheric phase just before the 5 minute mark. The ditty is as haunting as ever as *hypnonaut shifts from a Klein blue color to the darker, blacker, more menacing stationary vibes whose drones are the equivalent of that deathly silence after a disaster. The longest structures of the album are interspersed with atmospheric phases full of unusual noises, samplings and black and white theatrical effects, like the beginnings of Picture Palace Music. But one must persevere because even without life, the music here conceals disturbing passages. *last igloo before darkness is a perfect example. This slow track crawls its weighty carcass heavy of dark ambiences in a corridor filled with creaks and gothic synth layers that float under the charms of a tasty Patrick O'Hearn-like bass texture. She drags her sufferings into another delicious cinematic soundscape, more musical here, of a dark night by a haunted lake. The meshing of the bass with the vocal ornament of the synth pads is fascinatingly and unsettlingly beautiful. A melody rises from these ambiences, giving a more moiré sheen to this track that develops in a cadenced procession until it arrives in a panorama filled with artifices and sound effects a little after the 5th minute. One can hear rustling, footsteps in the snow, muffled explosions, ducks taunting, water lapping and other elements that testify that Nico Walser is an adept at recording nature. These elements give a phantasmagorical touch to the 79 minutes of SLEEP TIDES.
I will cut the details short! *and miles to go before I sleep offers a good Berlin School-like rhythm structure with a nasal childlike melody that reminds of Johannes Schmoelling's universe, the piano too by the way. The continuous back and forth movement of the sequencer sculpts an ascending rhythm that eventually wanders into a melodious and brief atmospheric passage. The various sounds of nature are in symbiosis with the more cheerful, less dark vision of a very good track that features some beautiful piano and ends with a more driving rhythm. *moth of the outernet continues the charm operation with a fascinating sequencer texture that unfolds a melodic rhythm in a spiral and sequenced ritornello form in a scary movie atmosphere that reminds me of those old silent cartoons. The sequences tap dance on a xylophone, structuring a lively rhythm that runs through its shadowy and threatening moments. A little more and I see this butterfly-hunting piglet penetrating a forest of a thousand spells of fear. A long atmospheric track shaken by sudden phases of stateless rhythms, *we are sleep lets pass a legion of buzzing drones that welcome a strange voice that is on its last rales. Here, flies buzz like birds chirp in a heavy atmosphere that arrangements make even more conducive to a schizophrenic crisis. Honestly, it's a difficult track to tame but the sound effects give it this dimension that attracts and justifies our aural curiosity. Another very good track, *pyjama hippie society deploys its unchanging anaesthetic synth layers. A very beautiful piano places its crystalline notes which tinkle by creating a vision of enchantment disturbed by elucubrations of a Jew's harp. Peace of mind and turmoil confront each other in these 11 minutes where we are literally in Nico's dreams. We can even hear a girl asking if he's sleeping. Two layers of overlapping melodies are at the origin of *somnotopia, a slow and melodious track whose intensity is bewitching. The synth continues to inject layer upon layer while weaving loops that roll with an essence of melody whose sharpness unscrews the eardrums. A delightful ascending rhythm structure, always thought in the form of a rhyme or a ritornello, appears around the 3rd minute. It unfolds its charms until it is swallowed by a finale in din filled with buzzes. From the top of its 14 minutes, *schlaf strahler - sleep radiator is the main track of SLEEP TIDES. A mix of Redshift and ['ramp], the structure develops slowly with good percussive elements, both in terms of rattles and sound effects, on a carpet of resonance that could well come from the heaviness of a big Moog. A mellotron throws a delightful ode flavored by a quavering flute into a most delightful chthonian setting. It is like following a procession of condemned men walking towards death. This slow and heavy cadenced parade undertakes an atmospheric turn around the 6th minute. This passage of more or less 3 minutes always exploits a luciferous soundscape with synth layers that float and drift in a corridor where percussive sound effects resonate. A bit like those long structures in SLEEP TIDES, *schlaf strahler - sleep radiator wanders between the complexity of noise and dark ambient moments as well as seraphic phases, which highlight a superb voice in passing, without forgetting a passing rhythmic jolt. In short, everything to create an infectious climate that radiates at the greatness of this amazing album of Giant Skeletons.
Even if its degree of complexity could scare some of you, SLEEP TIDES has those attributes of a very good musical tale that you must discover and tame chapter by chapter. We must not forget that we are in the musical borders of a dreamer who proposes us to hear to his dreams. A not ordinary story whose dimensions respect the framework of an album of an incomparable sound, atmospheric and musical richness which is amply worth the detour.
Sylvain Lupari (September 26th, 2022) *****
Available at Giant Skeletons Bandcamp