We Will Rock You… To Sleep
It’s a pretty safe bet that one of the earliest uses of what would become music was cavemen and women singing each other to sleep, warding off the unknown dangers of a foreboding and uncertain night. The Japanese-American couple that make up Lullatone have dedicated themselves to continuing that tradition, cloaking a primitive impulse in a very modern sonic vocabulary. The music of Lullatone was born out of necessity, keyboardist and soundscaper Shawn James Seymour needed to work on music and future vocalist and partner Yoshimi Seymour needed to sleep, so the songs and synth loops he was workshopping on his rudimentary synths were hushed and spare. Soon enough, Yoshimi was joining in on very understated vocals and Lullatone was born. Through five albums, Lullatone have created consistently entertaining sleepmusick using only the barest of tools – chiming, deliberate keyboards and cloying, hidden vocals – and the narrowest of intent. They fulfill the manifesto of the album title in the most direct way possible.
We Will Rock You…. To Sleep is a handy compilation of tracks from their handful of albums, as well as a quick look forward, in the form of “A Mobile Over Your Bed” from the forthcoming album Songs That Spin In Circles, an album of lullabies for Yoshimi and Shawn’s newborn baby. Rarely has parental pride (ever seen 200 wallet-size photos?) or utilitarianism sounded as gorgeous as this mix of tentative synth peals, a gaggle of quiet, patient music boxes, breathy whispers, and Charlie Brown gang lalalas. The rest of the album sleepwalks backward in much the same pleasurable vein, only broken up by the ramshackle exuberance of “Bedroom Bossa Band,” with its miniature preschool tropicalia groove and copious xylophone. But even that wouldn’t keep your bunkmate up past their bedtime! There are songs about waking up, drowsing during long afternoons and then finally being tucked in by Mr. Sandman once darkness falls. Yoshimi’s vocals are a comforting, gleeful whisper; when she urges us to wake up, even wage slaves like this reviewer think hey, maybe today won’t be such a loss. Seymour’s instrumentation is that rare mix of childlike intuition (hey, I could fucking play that part) and deft arranging skills; layering and layering these basic keyboard lines and samples and the occasional tiny ukulele into a complex, bejeweled tapestry that never feels overwrought or suffocating. Indeed, the casual listener would mistake much of this for ambient music. Let’s call it ambien pop instead, without all the sleep driving, of course.
There is more than enough room for the listener to fill in the copious sonic spaces with his/her own unconscious reveries. There is little variation in the musical thematics Lullatone delve into over the course of the album, and the thing of it is, there really doesn’t have to be. What they aim to do and how they sound is so focused and so pretty that only a heartless fuck could find fault in it. And yes, I do love black metal.
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