Made Of Breath Only is the fourth full-length album and tenth release by Australia’s sleepmakeswaves, and it is glorious! The post-rock instrumental quartet from Sydney, NSW serve up a soundscape of impressive majesty here.
sleepmakeswaves occupy a curious sonic space: not quite rough enough to be metal, but a bit too loud to be rock. They get the “post-rock” genre moniker slapped onto them like many bands that push boundaries while remaining difficult to pigeonhole or define. They joke on their Bandcamp page that they “write love songs about delay pedals” but their sound seems to avoid drowning the listeners with echo. They do make use of some moody guitar effects, including one that imitates the timbre of a human voice in “Glacial.” Guitarists Otto Wicks-Green and Daniel Oreskovic focus more on the ‘soaring melodies’ end of things and less on the ‘shredding solos’ but the lines between those get blurry from song-to-song without ever going too far either way. They make strategic use of acoustic guitars. Bass player Alex Wilson gets a measure or two in the spotlight but he seems to stay in the background, while adding some colour on the piano and keyboards. Drummer Tim Adderley keeps things moving along and adds the odd textural flourish but the rhythms on Made Of Breath Only’s 10 tracks (59 minutes total) stay basic.
The standard sleepmakeswaves song is built along a recognizable melodic motif, starting slowly and quietly before building up into a louder and louder climax or crescendo. On this album, they range from 4 to 10 minutes long. The combined layering of guitar sounds and the re-use of motifs throughout the album (i.e., several repeated from song to song) are symphonic in their execution, though not in sound. Fans of sleepmakeswaves’s 2014 album Love Of Cartography will not find anything very different here other than the expansiveness of the album’s scope. Made Of Breath Only is far more calculated and composed as a coherent whole than the previous album and it is the better one for all that.
The album’s high point comes in the penultimate song “Tundra.” Starting with an uncharacteristically stereotypical prog keyboard run, the song breezes along into a multi-layered splendor that morphs almost unnoticed into the closer, “Worlds Away.” sleepmakeswaves wisely held back with the opening theme from “The Edge Of Everything” until the very last minute, resolving tension in an almost perfect way. It almost seems as if sleepmakeswaves composed Made Of Breath Only on the macro scale in the same way that some songwriters work for a single track: keeping repeatable themes recognizable and building tension between each repetition thereof until the final release. That’s artistry for you right there.
North American readers of It Djents might be familiar with sleepmakeswaves because of their recent tour supporting The Contortionist alongside Entheos and Monuments. This decidedly un-metal band might have seemed out of place on such a bill, but I was at the Montreal stop on that tour in March 2016 and sleepmakeswaves more than held their own (Given that Chaney Crabb of Entheos and Chris Baretto of Monuments were both no-shows that night, sleepmakeswaves was the only deliberately instrumental band on the bill so they actually sounded as they were meant to sound.) This is by no means a boring band to watch live. They had more energy and visible emotion onstage than say, certain “Animals” who portend to be “Leaders.”
This bears mentioning because the energy translates from the stage to the studio fairly well. Never drowning in pointless noodling, instrumental pretension, or introspective self-centeredness, sleepmakeswaves seem to have struck a happy medium of instrumental artistry with Made Of Breath Only.
Notable Tracks: “Tundra”; “The Edge of Everything”; “Into The Arms Of Ghosts”
FFO: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Hüsker Dü, Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, Sigur Rós
Made Of Breath Only will be released digitally, on CD, and on vinyl on March 24, 2017. You can pre-order it on sleepmakeswaves’s Bandcamp page. Follow sleepmakeswaves on their web page, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Sleepmakeswaves will launch Made Of Breath Only with a tour of Australia from March 24 through April 8, and will support the Devin Townsend Project in a tour of Australia and New Zealand through May 2017. Tour details are on their site.