Forever - Sleep ∞ Over - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #44

I’ve never really been much of a defeatist, but then again, I’ve had a pretty cosy life. Nothing terribly unfortunate has happened to me (so far) in the course of my life, and I haven’t much reason to complain or whine. Sure, there are things I wish weren’t in my life, like exams at present, but everyone has to do them, there’s no avoiding them, so there’s no sense in panicking or turning into a whiney, self-depreciating wreck and making your own life, and everybody else’s ten times worse. Notice the (almost) disclaimer above: “Nothing terribly unfortunate has happened to me – “ I imagine my own advice would be considerably more difficult to follow were I subjected to a more stressful event. And that’s why I admire Miss Stefanie Franciotti, the one woman band that is Sleep ∞ Over. After forming the group with members Christa Palazzolo and Sarah Brown in 2010, Sleep ∞ Over started to gather some momentum, getting picked up by a record label and releasing a truly entrancing 7” single Outer Limits. US tours followed, everything seemed to be in the right place for recording their first full-length album, and then BAM, Stephanie Franciotti gets royally screwed over. Palazzolo and Brown decided to leave and form their own band. (The very good Girlfriend, who are also worth checking out) Now I guess it’d be pretty easy to have packed it in then: I don’t imagine one gets over such dealings lightly. But I guess Franciotti must have been pretty determined to continue on, because the album Forever she eventually came out with (late last year) is just a peach. I’m sure there was nothing malicious about Palazzolo and Brown’s leaving, but if there was, Forever acts as a great big SCREW YOU to them.

That’s not to say Forever is a raw, angry or bitter album. On the contrary, it’s exceedingly mysterious, with so many styles and emotions interweaved in it that it’s difficult to tell if there what the overarching message is, if any. There’s a lot of building of Sleep ∞ Over’s original dream-pop sound, but Franciotti’s vocals are often buried in the mix and appear incredibly distant, as if otherworldly; speaking to us as if from another pocket of human existence, drowned out by the colossus of sound before her. And what choodessny zvooks they are, o my brothers! Combine this with some skittering drums, howling walls of reverberated guitar, droning synthesizer and overdub upon overdub upon overdub, you’ve got some seriously schizophrenic music. The likes of Stickers and Romantic Streams are simply wonderful, wonderful pieces of dreamy pop; spellbinding and atmospheric, like something right out of Twin Peaks. But like Twin Peaks, there’s a sense of the danger and the unknown ever present, hiding in the background. And sure enough, it doesn’t take long for these themes to become embodied in song. Cryingame may be about the most disturbing piece of music on the album, beginning with a whirl of metallic sounds and massive guitar feedback before the dull, pulsating thud of a single repeated bass note takes the track onwards and upwards. Spectral electronics are added till the whole song makes you feel like you’re standing in a factory, observing the mechanical and rhythmic actions of machines. And Flying Saucers Are Real, with its pounding toms and Franciotti’s vocal so incomprehensible it’s simply used as another instrument, is so ghostly and moody that it feels like a distorted reality: that moment when you’ve been awake for 36 hours solid and just aren’t sure what’s real anymore.

Forever is indeed an enigmatic and disturbing journey, tempestuous and unpredictable, and what’s more, I think it works better as the product of but one band member. It’s so introspective and paranoid that the other 2 ex-band members probably would have interfered with this, had they stayed on. Early Sleep ∞ Over flitted with such ominous sounds, but never fully embraced them. Similarly, Girlfriend, the band the 2 ex-members formed, incorporated some stylistic changes but still kept to their dream-pop backbone. With Forever, Franciotti turned Sleep ∞ Over on its head by making an album of such brooding intensity and hallucinatory character. Of course I can’t know that this stylistic change was for the best: but what I do know is that there is no way anyone else could have delivered an album of such power.

Words – Adam

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