Sleep and Release

Chemikal Underground/Matador

Aereogramme’s debut disc, A Story in White, is one of my favorite records of the last ten years. Its mix of brutal death metal slammage and haunting confessional indie pop was canny and necessary, and has been the soundtrack for many a road trip. (My brother loves it too — we bang heads.) And I appreciated the fact that I alone seemed to understand the subtext of the record: Craig B’s journey to reconcile his parents’ Christian faith with all the horrible things that he sees happen in the world. I thought this was pretty straightforward, but no one else caught it, so I ended up thinking either that I was wrong (unthinkable!) or that everyone else was (sounds about right).

So I had high hopes for this second album, and I’m not disappointed at all. Their sonic palette has expanded with the addition of multi-musical pranqster Iain Cook, and now they’re taking on new things like Spector-esque Wall of Sound pop (“Black Path”) and prog-punk-orchestral workouts like the untitled final track. They’ve also gone further with their mix of rock and electronix and strings (“A Simple Process of Elimination”) and more nakedly emotional songs (the bold lover-man waltz “In Gratitude”) and Really Really Loud Songs That Cannot Be Categorized, while not abandoning all the stuff that I liked about them in the first place. So yeah, they nailed it–although they might wanna not listen to Yoshimi vs. the Pink Robots or Kid A quite so much.

Craig B is just as tortured as we need him to be, whether screeching his intestines out on “Older” or singing softly and sweetly on “Winter’s Discord.” When he implores God to “Erase / Erase us / Erase this world,” it’s clear that that’s the only way he can think of to solve all our problems. And he even manages to make fun of himself a little on the splendidly-titled “No, Really, Everything’s Fine” by saying “Maybe your life is wonderful / I wish you well” before wishing apocalypse on us all: “I say / Kingdom come!” as every instrument in the world bursts forth into angry flowers and fireworks. Hey, I’m not Christian anymore, but this stuff can cause a lump in the throat anyway, because we’re all searching for a solution we’ll never find.

And let’s just say this: the rhythm section of Campbell McNeil and Martin Scott is the best in the entire world. These two are shit-hot and lovely, in any time signature. Okay then.

I’m not sure Sleep and Release has the same thematic pull as A Story in White; that’s probably not a bad thing. But there’s something a little diffuse about this record — and I’m not talking about the music at all — so it hasn’t all revealed itself to me yet. But if you think I’m not going to spend many happy hours this year trying to unravel the mysteries of Sleep and Release, you’re not understanding me.

This is clearly destined for my top 10 list, and might be top 5, and may be #1. Holy shite what a record.

Matador Records: • Aerogramme:

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