With the departure of bandmates Sarah Brown and Christa Palazzolo (aka Boy Friend) just before the planned recording of this debut album, Sleep ∞ Over is now more or less the solo project of ex Silver Pines member Stefanie Franciotti. Recorded at home in her “maze of cables and vintage hardware”, Franciotti has wrested from difficult beginnings an album both tuneful and abstract, euphoric and bleak, coupling the dreamiest of dream-pop with something at times considerably more troubling.
Forever is an album that plays with polarities. A large tranche of its songs are transcendental, spacey and evocative, often instrumental, while others are more conventional. Highlights in the former camp are opener ‘Behind Closed Doors’, a track full of queasy haunted tremors, wobbles and background hiss; ‘Porcelain Hands’, which starts with dark, apocalyptic rumblings before a lighter synth sound and vocal soar into earshot; ‘Cryingame’, which transforms from a synth drone into something faster, louder and more intense as it deepens and evolves into an abrasive noise, bringing with it mysterious rattles, bleeps and sonic squiggles; and ‘Untitled’, which is more of a doodle, neither long enough nor fully-formed enough to merit its own title, but with enough texture in its shrill bleeps and glitches to nevertheless deserve inclusion.
Tuneful, Beach House-esque songs with gentle synthesised beats and floaty vocals are the order of the day on the singles ‘Romantic Streams’ and the more assertive ‘Casual Diamond’, with ‘Flying Saucers Are Real’ and ‘Stickers’ also impressing – the former for Franciotti’s sweet singing over the consistent beat, and the latter for its woozy pop feel. Franciotti’s lyrics are mostly indiscernible across the album, lost in the haze of her effects-cloaked voice. Dreamy and beguiling on ‘Romantic Streams’, drifting upwards into intangibility on ‘Casual Diamond’. A reference point for many will be Liz Fraser of Cocteau Twins, particularly on the mysterious yet somehow inclusive ‘The Heavens Turn By Themselves’, the wistful ‘Flying Saucers Are Real’, and in the slightly deeper intonations of the downbeat closer ‘Don’t Poison Everything’.
Another of the album’s contrasts is found in its emotional tone. At one extreme is a sense of something close to euphoria, evoked in the throb, shimmer and incremental dynamics of ‘The Heavens Turn By Themselves’, the ecstasy conjured up on ‘Stickers’ and the trippy feel to parts of ‘Porcelain Hands’. At the other end is the much darker mood found on the ill-at-ease ‘Behind Closed Doors’, which sits somewhere between nausea and placidity, ‘Casual Diamond’ with its hard-and-heavy opening gambit, and on the notably less wonderstruck finale. Rarely sounding like the work of just one musician, and even less often sounding like the bedroom recording that it is, Franciotti has pulled off quite a feat in bringing together an album of such fullness of tone and mood. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding its creation, this is music of a rich depth and satisfying intensity.
[Hippos In Tanks; September 27, 2011]