[10 October 2011]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Sleep ∞ Over is yet another one-person band that’s part of a massive wave of retro-inspired bedroom keyboard groups mining dream pop/shoegaze territory. This time, behind the name is Austin, Texas’ Stefanie Franciotti. What’s more, Sleep ∞ Over comes with the Pitchfork seal of approval, as their sister site Altered Zones wound up releasing Franciotti’s debut seven-inch electronically last year. So, yes, Sleep ∞ Over is yet another hip and trendy band making chillwave, though “the group” self-identifies itself with witch house, a joke label largely used by some music publications to denote any keyboard-washed act that uses occult themes in their work. (Well, it’s better than calling the “genre” by its other well-known tag: rapegaze.) It’s hard to say whether or not Sleep ∞ Over met that label, as you can barely hear the ethereal female vocals, meaning that you might have to pick up the record and play it backwards to see if there’s any Satanic messages in its grooves. However, what can be said about this one-woman band is the same thing you can say about the similarly sounding Memoryhouse from Toronto: it nestles quite nicely into Beach House-style glacial rhythms and angelic female vocals.
Forever, the debut album from Franciotti, essentially alternates between sticky-sweet iceberg-sized sheets of melodic keyboard pop placed at a snail’s pace with My Bloody Valentine-esque singing and experimental sheets of static-filled psychedelic instrumental noise pop, not unlike the vocal-less tracks found on the Moody Blues’ 1969 classic On the Threshold of a Dream. It is these latter tracks which wind up being less successful, though they are atmospheric. Still, they feel like filler to buffer up the clutch of vocal-fueled songs. Forever, as a result, comes across as a schizophrenic lo-fi keyboard-based version of early Sebadoh in its fractured sense of unity. Where Forever does work is in the fragility of its sugar-sweet female vocals, which act as a heavenly guide and provide structure to the album – avoiding the pitfalls of formlessness that dog the album’s instrumental tracks. As a whole, Forever seems to be covering some awfully familiar territory, though that may be because I’ve almost have had my fill of bands that sound so indistinguishable to each other in the chillwave and dream pop genres (and related sub-genres). Your mileage may vary if this is your introduction to this form of music. Overall, I get the sense that Sleep ∞ Over, with all of its slit-eyed graveyard intonations, is a band that might actually improve from here, but it’s padded instrumental sections evidenced on their first album here might make you feel a little bit, well, sleepy.