A fascinating and consistently excellent hybrid of electronic and classical stylings.
George Sarah has achieved something that has proved to be increasingly elusive lately in creating an album that feels not only original but goes beyond mere curiosity. There’s been an abundance of music lately that’s been slapped with the tag original but it hasn’t stood the test of time that well. On first glance, it appears unique and refreshing and occasionally challenging. People become fascinated with these records but then they abandon them after a short while. Who Sleep the Sleep of Peace has many of the attributes of those releases but seems better poised to stand the test of time due to how accessible it is in the way it presents itself.
The electronic-classical hybrid certainly isn’t a new idea, but the way its presented here feels overwhelmingly unique. George Sarah seems to have tapped into his own distinct style and its arrived at the perfect crossroads between the best of electronic, experimental, and classical. In injecting the classical orchestral elements, Who Sleep the Sleep of Peace is heavily imbued with a sense of personality and the human element that’s most often missing from electronic music. In a year that’s offered up blunt boring standards and attempted statements from figureheads like Steve Aoki and Paul Van Dyk, a record like this feels downright revolutionary. While those artists were too busy and too self-involved in their own pasts, George Sarah already seems to have arrived in the future, which is much more interesting terrain.
Importantly, this album realizes early on how to perfectly complement the various styles at play and that most certainly doesn’t include the annoyance of the same pulsating 4/4 beat that dominates damn near every electronic/dance album, and takes its signature cues from people like Jon Brion instead. “Cloudy” actually sounds like it could have been lifted directly from Brion’s original score work for Where the Wild Things Are, which is high praise. Not only does it prove George Sarah’s talent as a composer but it also sets an early high water mark for the album that he consistently tries to topple but never quite can. Fortunately, most of his attempts come within inches of surpassing it, creating tension that keeps the listener on their toes.
Who Sleep the Sleep of Peace is at its absolute best when the classical influence takes priority over the electronic influence but at its truest when the two meet in the middle and balance each other out perfectly. At a bloated running time of 76 minutes, it’s incredibly impressive that the record never really loses momentum. It’s compulsive and its transformations provide for truly fascinating moments that consistently reward attention. Trying to dissect the individual parts of Who Sleep the Sleep of Peace and separating them out becomes a time-consuming challenge but only ends up proving how good of a composer and mixer George Sarah truly is.
While Who Sleep the Sleep of Peace may not be a perfect record, it tries to be and it damn near pulls it off, creating something incredibly powerful and singular in its vision. With moments like “Tomorrow Never Came” and its battling melancholy strings and frantic, near-schizophrenic electronic battles creating a simultaneously beautiful and terrifying contrast. Unfortunately, the most standard, most boring, least original, and most electronic-heavy track “Drag Ass” is saved for last, dulling the impact of the rest of the album with its nine-minute run-time that all but erases the brilliance of prior tracks from memory. Apart from that horrendously misguided misstep, Who Sleep the Sleep of Peace manages to transcend music and elevate itself into forward-thinking art, and that’s something we could use much, much more of.