Portland’s own Daniel Menche is an established name in experimental music circles, having released albums on everything from Mego to Tesco Organisation. Over the years, he has dabbled (or, perhaps more properly, engaged in) several different forms of electronic music – everything from rather brutal noise to quite harmonic ambient. His latest offering, released a few days before Christmas this year, belongs mainly to the latter category.
The album is a total of three hours long, and divided into twelve tracks. It is mainly a peaceful affair, though it does get more menacing, with distorted and even rhythmic elements chiming in at select intervals. In fact, the only mode of experimental electronica not really explored would be aggression – this is always somewhat more thoughtful, even at its loudest.
Based on the theme of sleep, and that our eyes are “constantly seeing even when they are shut”, the soundscapes lay somewhere between droning dark ambient of the type heavily published and promoted by labels such as Cyclic Law, and something more “arty” and structured. With experimental electronics there’s always a sort of tension between the high art scene and the more underground anti-establishment scene (though the latter is of course more often than not completely co-opted by the former). Sleeper is sort of beyond that distinction, in that the themes and approach are very artistic and symbol oriented (check out Menche’s homepage and biography for more of that), while the sound and atmosphere would still fit just fine in the cool down lounge of some dark wave/industrial club in Germany.
Regardless of what pigeonhole one would like to stick Herr Menche in, one thing is certain: this is supremely competent, very well executed. For good or ill, this is the polar opposite of mass produced Harsh Noise Wall or largely improvised violent power electronics. In this case, this reviewer finds it works very well. There are synthetic elements, acoustic instruments, percussions and chiming bells, and very likely also a bunch of field recordings. All is bundled together very nicely to create dreamy, ambient structures that gives the impression of being composed and refined in every detail. There’s much to discover, and even if the massive playing time had been more limited, this would be music one could spend a lot of time exploring.