Sleepland | Out of Hue
This is Kengo Yonemura as Sleepland who has been creating delicate ambient works infused with drone since 2013. This new release in the perfectly curated and long-running series from Spekk, is a generous addition to their balanced roster of works that soothe, and stretch the imaginative world of intersections between field recordings and textural ambient cadences.
From the very start Out of Hue sparkles with toy-like melodies and washes of rain patterns. Composed while living in Berlin for a year, this native of Hyogo (Japan) worked with Stephan Mathieu to master this with a sense of fused lightness, and subtlety, but there is something very tangible in the way the sound surfaces. This may be placing the listener on a dock, some place where ocean water is slightly disturbed. This comes out as curvaceous and a bit like being on a boat at sea with a light storm forming around you. This sense of buoyancy is real palpable on the lengthy opener, Corduroy. As it ends you can hear the drone/hiss that was its base all along, though it wasn’t at all obvious during the entire thirteen minutes. Unique separation.
Shades and depths seem central to the core of the concept here. The rippling effect settles between liquid and solid (on At Least, Water as stones and perhaps a fountain). Not since Nakajima Akifumi have I heard something that so affirmed the musicality of the happenstance between the elements. In its organic simplicity it comes alive.
The work gathers elements of orchestration, nature and stream of consciousness in a way that defies other modulated ambient work, instead it has this embedded pulsing glow that fades into the background at times, but never becomes simply wallpaper. Yonemura seems to understand the power of a multitude of pristine layers acting as a digital map of his subject matter, as it moves and changes with only hints of variant shading — and how to break that tension With Unsteady Steps, literally. And as the terrain shifts a tribal percussion swallows his built setting and makes way for the second half of what is to follow.
The main focus turns a bit darker, in his reference points of concentration camps and other history. The clang of metal rooted in the most primal of human experience leads to slowly contorted pitch and other chords, ill at ease, and dragging. In all this recording runs a considerable seventy-seven minutes in length, enough time to course through emotional terrain without breaking the atmosphere in two. This is teeming with hue (contrary to its title), though its complexion may only show a faint blush at times, its effective from its minimalistic range. That said, you have to appreciate the slow-build in a track like Dot Touch, which goes from 0-60 but takes its entire ten minutes to do so. It’s voluminous roar is nowhere to be expected until after mid-point, and even then the gradual perspective takes the patience of a saint (or something like that).
Microsounds are scattered randomly, but this is no dive back into the glory days of hiss and crackle and pop, rather a whole new thread into coordinating electronics and guitar into lightness and understated distortion. My absolute favorite track here comes towards the end, Gnarled Limbs. It perfectly balances a sense of fluids and slow absent harmony with a smooth-to-the-touch, airy sense of viscosity. Everything is in this state of slow-motion flotation, and even as he adds volume and decreases the hazy outer layer its as if you are witnessing a steely sphere open up and expose its innards, its bare shell.
Lastly, for the twenty-minute conclusion, Sleepland offers likely his most industrially inclined work in this collection, Everything is There, Besides Anything is not There. Or at least at its intro you are led to believe, though this smartly reverts into a stifled tone and barely audible loop. Along the way, this spacey piece only indistinctly meanders and ends up much more of a meditation than elsewhere on this record. I’d imagine this work best somewhere settled in the middle of the record in terms of highs and lows, but he obviously wants to leave the listener with a sense of mind meld brainwash, in a condition of prolonged meditation. Simply hallucinatory.