sleep party people – floating

brian batz makes music under the moniker sleep party people, but his given name never seems to be that detached from his project.  there’s never been any question about the identity of the man behind the music, and batz even goes so far as to post every sleep party people song on a soundcloud account bearing his name.  personally, if i were responsible for something as breathtaking as the music of sleep party people, i would want direct credit as well.  on the project’s newest album, floating, batz ups the ante and creates one of the year’s best amalgamations of pop music and ambient sounds.

the lead single grabbed from floating, “in another world,” was – and still remains to be – a delectable earworm in every sense of the term.  as the first taste of sleep party people’s new material, the song leans heavily on batz’s signature falsetto while adding strings and groove-heavy percussion over a minor key to make it truly ominous yet simultaneously infectious.  the tracklist of floating is more or less aesthetically constructed around “in another world,” which gives the album a logical, if not somewhat predictable, trajectory.  the opening triptych of songs are traced by warbly, modest mouse-esque guitar lines that weave expertly through batz’s ethereal voice and the percussion it sits on top of.  “a stranger among us” seems to swap the six-string for the sine wave, promptly foreshadowing the electronic turn batz will begin to take shortly.

after pitting a western-themed guitar loop against synthetic strings on “in another world,” batz begins to broaden his horizons, culminating in “i see the sun, harold,” a hazy instrumental that bleeds acoustic piano effortlessly with feedback and other white noise.  the song’s counterpart, appropriately titled “i see the moon,” offers an eight-minute detour down the most upbeat road batz travels throughout floating, but the song ultimately proves to be nothing more than a well-structured bypass; floating closes out with “only a shadow” and “scattered glass,” two melancholy cuts that are among the strongest on the album.  “only a shadow” adds hesitant, vulnerable vocals to the aesthetic dictated by “i see the sun, harold,” allowing “scattered glass” to provide a huge contrast with its gradual layering and steady crescendo, effectively ending floating on a rather triumphant note.

brian batz is incredibly well-versed in manufacturing emotive songs, and he continues to display this trait on floating.  sleep party people’s music is utterly cinematic, and this album is best experienced through headphones in order to appreciate each song’s subtle nuances.  keep tabs on floating and try not to fall in love with the album artwork.  it’s a harder task than it seems.

8.5/10

apollo vermouth – fractured youth

a2075354742_10in one of those rare musical moments, alisa rodriguez has created a masterful body of work with little more than a guitar and copious amounts of personal reflection.  fractured youth is rodriguez’s latest effort under her ambient guise of apollo vermouth, but this album strips away most of the salient, dreamy traits of ambient music in favor of an ominous, distant barrage of noise.  it may be the milwaukee resident’s most profound collection of songs yet.

although the album is broken up into specified tracks, fractured youth lends itself well to continuous, uninterrupted playback.  chord changes are slow, and any sense of harmonic motion is usually obscured by the layers of white noise that accompany each song.  after two comparatively quick tracks, the album settles in with “aftertaste” and “never ending,” a one-two hazy punch serving as the centerpiece of fractured youth.

both songs flirt with the six-minute mark, the former falling just short while the latter spills over, yet each establishes and represents a fairly concise, contrasting element of rodriguez’s music.  “aftertaste” has a sense of urgency, its busy progressions hinting at explorations of pent-up emotions, while “never ending” paces itself more methodically.  harmonics from the drone tend to have more emphasis here, and the back half of the song seems especially stagnant.

after increased tension on “vacant lots,” fractured youth comes to an appropriate close with “drift,” a gorgeous coda that evokes an oddly distinct feeling of being lost at sea, perhaps a metaphor for dealing with a foreign situation.  together, the album’s six songs comprise a half-hour of minimalist, reflective music just as useful for falling asleep as it is for deep, serious meditation sessions.  fractured youth is out now via bridgetown records.  don’t miss out.

8.3/10