Travel – A Sleep + A Wake

A Sleep + A Wake

The four experimental noise-rock boys in Travel return with another patchwork album that takes another step away from their spoken work poetry to jazzy improv rock demonstrated on their first two albums. Like the last release, Me & My Friend Noise, A Sleep + A Wake goes in new directions. In fact, there are only four tracks on this release, each an instrumental with an ambient bent, and the band tried something different with each track. Seeing as how these four musicians, who live far apart and only get together on occasion to record, each have an experimental bent, it’s no surprise that this one strays even further from the norm than ever before.
“The Printing Press” isn’t even a real song. The guitar was strummed during an amp check, the bass is mostly hum, and the elements of the song were pieced together from various music bits. It has a nice ambient feel to it regardless and is an interesting idea, even if it does betray the idea of a song. “Meet Doctor Von Shock” was recorded as a band through a mono mic, then cut and pasted until it had a different feel than the original. It’s rather clunky and clanking and too repetitive for its own good. On “Flashlight Propaganda,” all four musicians played their instruments lying down, looking at the ceiling instead of each other. It’s a neat idea, and one that’s probably quite relaxing (although I’m not sure how you play drums lying down). The song itself is fairly relaxing if a bit discordant, the oddly plucked guitar a bit out of place.
The closer, the 24-minute opus “Museum of Modern,” tries another approach. Each of the four musicians is playing in different rooms in a house, and the whole thing is improvised, so it’s hard to imagine anything resembling a song could result. The band even records ambient noises – walking up and down stairs, water running, the click of a lamp being turned off. Amazingly enough, it’s the best piece on the release, especially knowing how it was recorded (liner notes would have been helpful). Sure, it’s mostly noodling and playing around, but the sounds work well together, and somewhere near the end the sounds sort of come together and start sounding intentional.
Travel’s first two releases were brilliantly abrasive, brash and in-your-face, and each time I listen to them I hear something new, something fresh, something quirky. With their last two releases, however, they’ve strayed away from their formula – which, I imagine, was the idea – and into experimental territory. Me & My Friend Noise was just abrasive, while A Sleep + A Wake is, as the title would suggest, sleep-inducing. Not a bad experimental effort, but a far cry from the Travel I grew to love.