For the uninitiated, sleepmakeswaves are a 4-piece post-rock/instrumental outfit from Sydney, Australia who have 10 years behind them and three studio albums to show for it with their new release Made of Breath Only. Whilst they have made their waves in their homeland, the band are just beginning to make waves in the US and Europe, and their latest release will hopefully help to propel them to that next level.
The post-rock genre is having something of a resurgence over the past 5-10 years with genre defining Mogwai at their best and most prolific, Caspian and Explosions in the Sky releasing their best material to date and, the heavier Russian Circles really blooming as a creative force. It’s a crowded genre at the top and it’s hard to get noticed when there is so much depth and breadth of styles.
Have sleepmakeswaves done enough to push themselves up with the likes of the aforementioned bands?
I’d have to say, no. Made of Breath Only is a perfectly listenable album. I liked the feel and the more atmospheric vibe they have taken on. The lush reverbs and delays on the clean guitars that explode into wide and distorted choruses really make this album sound massive. Production is great, guitar tones and drums mix really well and there’s a lot of detail without getting too crowded in the mix. Sadly there isn’t a great deal of substance to back up the excellent production.
Listening to an instrumental album is very different experience as you have to rely purely on the soundscapes, melodies, and atmosphere created by the band to make you feel something. There are really uplifting moments which do feel powerful, and do make you feel something, but not quite enough. I wasn’t gripped enough to want to keep listening to it.
I kept waiting for that left turn or something really interesting to to turn me upside-down, but it never materialised.
What is missing on Made of Breath Only is some diversity. It is, at times, post-rock by numbers. The dynamics and crescendos build to an explosion of guitars, but it’s nothing I haven’t heard before and done better before. The tremolo picked lead lines laded with delay and reverb are fierce, but are used way too much to be effective. I don’t want to be too hard on sleepmakeswaves, but as I mentioned before they are up against some really fantastic and creative bands in their genre. The bar is high.
What I can say that is positive is that I can imagine Made of Breath Only translates really well live. It’s full of energy and the wall of sound will be immense. However, when you make a record it has to be more than that. Melodies have to be memorable; hooks are even more important in instrumental music when you don’t have the luxury of vocals and lyrics to help. After 4 or 5 uninterrupted listens, I couldn’t really pick out one track that really stands out or any hooks that got stuck in my head.
If you like instrumental post-rock music and you need something to add to your playlist, Made of Breath Only is perfectly fine. It’s good music to accompany gaming or that tedious report you need to write. It’s good background music. If you were hoping this release is going to be sleepmakeswaves magnum opus, then it has fallen short, which I don’t take any pleasure in writing as I was expecting more from a very talented group of musicians.