With a career spanning for almost three decades, Daniel Menche is a distinguished experimental artist. Implementing abstract themes within a minimal setting, applying noise to build an asphyxiating environment, his music takes on a physical manifestation to the listener. Creating an illusion of claustrophobia and anxiety, taking away the warmth of any safe spaces and leaving all exposed to the elements has been Menche's modus operandi for the majority of his works.
Following his excellent collaboration with Mamiffer, Menche travels into a different trajectory with with his new record, Sleeper. Instead of bringing to life and creating manifestations of stressful and angst-ridden situations, the focus has shifted towards an ambient record one could fall asleep to. This is the main concept behind Sleeper, and Menche goes to lengths in constructing the appropriate ambiances and motifs in order to complete the task.
To that end there is a certain duality that comes across. At one side delicate synthesizers appear, resembling the scenery for a dream state, as tracks like “Sleep XI” reveal. Without remaining static, the sounds mutate through time, following an ever-changing, ever-evolving path. A very nice addition to this end is the minimal percussion implemented in the background, very nicely used in “Sleep I” through wind chimes slowly resonating, and in the timbral, ceremonial-like progression of “Sleep VII” which provides a primordial tone.
That does not mean that Menche has tamed his sound, and the record goes through a plethora of harsher overtones, where the relentless noise comes through. The ending of “Sleep X” is an instance of this tendency, distorting reality with its colorful presence, while in more extreme fashion “Sleep VII” the noise takes its purest form and infects the surrounding soundscapes to their core. But, it is not only the harshness of the sounds that speak of Menche's past but the grandiose peak that his tracks reach at times. Even though the album is adorned in minimalism, both in terms of progression and instrumentation, with sounds solitary placed and isolated in the surrounding environment, he still finds the space and timing to go for a bigger outbreak. The ending of “Sleep II” is such a moment, with the synthesizers swooping through frequencies and granting a transcendental effect to the music, or with the open, spacey quality of “Sleep VI” bringing a sci-fi take to the fold.
It is the underlying duality that Menche highlights in Sleeper that makes the work enticing. Caught in a state of existence between the harsh reality and the nebulous dream realm, the two entities contradict and clash in a very fitting fashion. The further exploration of each side individually, but also of moments when one state passes to the next, as is the case with the harsh awakening in “Sleep IV,” showcase the extent of Menche's investigation in this concept.
The length of the album, spanning for about three hours, is a touch daunting, and it does not help in retaining the listener's attention in one sitting. Listen to a couple of tracks each time and explore the themes of Sleeper gradually, and I doubt anyone will be able to fall asleep listening to the record.
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