[24 April 2011]
With Our Heads in the Clouds and Our Hearts in the Fields is the latest offering of ambient-pop from Belgium’s Sleepingdog. If there was ever a soundtrack for looking out a single rain-soaked windowpane, then this is it. With their subtle drones, Chantal Acda’s occasional vocals, and echo chamber piano taps, the album’s eight tracks avoid an expansive sound for something more sheltered. The problem is that it should feel more intimate than it really is; a minimalist approach to an ambient recording should breathe emotion into empty spaces, but on With Our Heads too many instrumental passages fall flat on their own. It’s too bad, really, because Acda proves a beguiling performer with her folk-y band True Bypass, and Sleepingdog’s other half, Adam Wiltzie, has in recent years made some of the best ambient recordings with his primary band Stars of the Lid. The band needs more songs like “Polish Love Song”, a Bruno Sanfilippo-like recording with full-bodied electronic swells and the saddest piano melody on the record. Wiltzie’s soundscapes are the album’s true backbone, and they steal the show on the vocal-free and piano-less (read: Acda-less) track “Kitten Plays the Harmony Rocket”, which seems to draw inspiration from William Basinski while staying faithful to the Stars of the Lid sound. If Sleepingdog is a true collaborative effort, then the duo needs to avoid making Acda’s vocals and piano-playing sound like the band’s lesser half.