Our Sleepless Forest – Our Sleepless Forest

Our Sleepless Forest - Our Sleepless Forest

Our Sleepless Forest - Our Sleepless Forest

Our Sleepless Forest’s self-titled debut album arrives amid little contextual detail. Three young men from London come out of nowhere with an album of vibrant, lush, and unpredictable soundscapes. This album gets released by Resonant Recordings, which then promptly goes on hiatus as an active label shortly after the album’s release. Aside from these slight crumbs of information, there is little press or self-promotion offered as support. That’s okay though, because music like this is better served by few specifics since what it’s trying to do is transcend specifics to reach something universal. On Our Sleepless Forest, many familiar sounds live together in a wild mixture which celebrates a sense of the chaos and mysteriousness of being alive.

The band’s name suggests a commonality we all share, a restlessness rooted in the never-ending mechanics of bodies and minds. The music brings this proposition to life, offering visions of vibrating atoms, deep-freeze clarity, and endless dissipation. This band obviously loves sound for its own sake, and use what I’d guess is a collagist approach in composing their music. Not that these songs don’t flow smoothly, because they flow majestically, but because they sound so exploratory and unwritten, like field recordings of consciousness. This flow is a hallmark of much great music and is not necessarily a crowning achievement, but Our Sleepless Forest infuses this flow with sounds that are thriving with life and morphing ever-forward like a living organism.

These guys don’t chase a genre, nor do genres stick very well to their work. Lead track “Nomads”, then, provides a statement of purpose both in name and execution. Within the first ten seconds, the listener is pulled into an otherworldly mélange that sounds like a combination of a breeze blowing through a chandelier store and a choir of jungle animals tuning their voices. These are soon joined by a repeating 4-note ascending bass run and a basic thumping beat, and the whole thing is soon on its way toward an untethered swirl through space, a tribal breakdown, and the eventual return of an intensified version of the previous elements before the bottom falls out leaving only a cat’s meow, a monkey’s whoop, and a bird’s chirp.

The trip started in “Nomads” doesn’t really stop until the end of final track “Haze”, by which time the band and the listener have traversed much territory, including the pensive then lilting folk in the first half of “The Tinderbox”, the orchestral juxtapositions of “Doors in Limbo”, the total amorphousness of “White Bird”, the Tangerine Dream-ing of “Aircastles”, the deep-bass noise-climaxing of “The Clarion”, and the skyward-reaching, white-light come-down of “Haze”. The whole thing is held together with the savvy use of delay effects, shape-shifting backwards playing, simultaneously heavenly and hissing synth pads, distant human voices, field recordings, and other animalistic yelps, breaths, moans, and coos coaxed from who knows what instrument or voice.

“Afraid of You” deserves special mention. Not only is it the most barrenly melodic song on the album, but it is one of the most brazenly beautiful pieces of post-rocking I’ve heard in a long time. The main phrase spirals upwards, composed of what sounds like backwards bits of guitar. It washes out into a recapitulation of the main phrase played on organ, which further washes out into overtones while barely audible voices converse in the background. Finally the main phrase comes back on backwards guitar as the wash fades away, repeats itself a few times, and then sublimely wisps away into the ether. It seems somehow too simple, but anything else added would subtract from the detailed movement in the phrasing of the main melody. Both in structure and effect, this piece bears a strong resemblance to Mogwai’s song “Tracy”, which is some of the highest praise I can imagine.

This music is very dense throughout, but it isn’t impenetrable or boring. Our Sleepless Forest sets itself apart from other post-rock space voyages in that it isn’t so interested in complimenting specific emotional states as it is in complimenting the overall thrust of the weird, awe-inspiring, but corporeally inescapable forces that constitute the experience of being alive. That’s pretty heady territory for three young men barely out of their teens, but perhaps we should be wondering why established musicians seem unable or uninterested in making this sort of sonic exploration of vitality instead of being amazed that it seems to come so naturally to a few anonymous youths.

Our Sleepless Forest

Resonant Recordings