Time fluctuates in dreams. It ebbs and flows, jumping over any logical progression of events in a discernible chronology. It is within this framework of the subconscious that 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) dwell, creating seemingly limitless soundscapes that are cohesive yet unrestrained. The latest offering, 一期一会 (For This Time Only, Never Again), proves that the band refuses to follow any sort of linear progression in lieu of creating an entirely different experience with each release.
The album starts with “Sitting For The Road,” which, while too long and fleshed out to really be considered an intro, serves more as a mood-setting piece, placing the listener into the R.E.M. phase of sleep for the vivid dream to come. Instantly, it is apparent that Sleepwalker are expanding their sonic realms with a greater bass presence and the use of a more expansive percussion section. The production lacks the hazy yet crisp atmosphere found in the former release, but the latest offering really warrants the broader scope of sound. The signature whispered vocals are still present, hovering just outside of decipher-ability like a subconscious voice beneath the music guiding the dream along. As the album opens up, it is clear that this is a much denser experience than 2017’s 5772. Make no mistake, this requires a very deep listen, bringing to mind similar leaps in growth such as Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse to Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk or The Mars Volta with De-loused In The Comatorium to Frances The Mute.
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
一期一会 progresses through a series of crescendos, a noteworthy high point being found on “No Premature Celebrations.” The build lifts from what essentially starts as a cavernous doom track complete with a smoldering tremolo riff beneath the surface into one of the more lively pieces of music on the record, due almost entirely to the warm tones of the walking bass under the cold, tinny leads of the guitar. The beginning hits of “Never Ailments on Oneself” fling Sleepwalker into all-out nightmare territory. The vocal layers here are terrifying, encompassing a raging, animalistic rasp with falsetto shrieks of agony flying across the speakers. The rasp simmers as the mood cools down to a lurking passage, coiled before the next strike of terror. The two moods begin overlapping until they are entwined, almost dancing with one another in a twisted waltz between the dangerous and the sinister.
Sleepwalker have set out on a much more ambitious endeavor through their twisted dreamscapes on 一期一会. While it lacks a bit of the focused haze found in the production of its predecessor, it is a sacrifice that pays off for a much deeper sonic realm for the band to explore while retaining the mysterious core of the band’s sound. The musicianship is tight and technical without succumbing to stiffened flashiness. Sleepwalker operate with skilled hands under the purpose of a singular mind as it explores wretched and beautiful corridors of the melatonin-soaked subconscious.