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Sleep Whale

Little Brite

(Western Vinyl; US: 14 Jul 2009; UK: 3 Aug 2009)

Before the change in name to Sleep Whale, this instrumental group went by Mom. It was a pretty fitting moniker, since the sounds on Little Brite are awfully comforting and familiar in some indefinable way. Of course, its new name works, too, since this stuff is dreamy and much bigger than its meager parts. All six tracks have guitars gliding over them with sweeping pastoral riffs, giving tracks like “Skipping Stones” and “Josh Loves Me” a soothing ripple. Behind them percussion clacks and clutters itself, charging the best moments with a subtle drive. Mix in some electronic atmospherics—and sometimes a shift from muddled fuzz to clear, shimmering notes—and you have the recipe for a pretty solid and distinct sound. Of course, that soothing foundation only takes Sleep Whale so far, and as pleasant as Little Brite is, its calm surface isn’t disrupted enough, and as these songs move along, you stop gliding through them and start glossing over. When you get to the surprise addition of vocals on the title track after a series of too-soft lullabies, it doesn’t feel like enough of a shift to illuminate the tracks that came before it. In the end, the comfort of the band’s sound is an asset that gets overplayed, and the tension that gets left out on the fringe of these tracks ends up being sorely missed.


Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.

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