After sleepmakeswaves, my all time favorite post-rock band, somehow followed Love of Cartography with the excellent Made of Breath Only, I thought I couldn’t love them anymore than I do. The follow-up was another energetic step into their sound, taking them away from the more somber beginnings of the various (and excellent) releases which preceded Love of Cartography and into the realms of upbeat, hopeful post-rock. It still had plenty of melancholy but there was an energy driving it, an energy that was already present on Love of Cartography. And yet, as good as Made of Breath Only was, and it was great, it was still a part of the same “chapter” in that band’s career, reiterating and filling out ideas already present in Love of Cartography.
But These Are Not Your Dreams, slowly released as three EPs this year and about to drop in full on July 17th, is the opening shot of the band’s next chapter. It is filled with experimentation for the band, seeing them tap into emo, post-metal and shoegaze to modulate and elaborate on their brand of powerful post-rock. Let me tell you, I honestly never thought I’d write these next words: this brand new chapter for the band seems to be just as good as the height of the previous, namely Love of Cartography. It is one of my all time favorites and possibly my favorite album of the previous decade and yet, the changes and additions made to the sleepmakeswaves formula means that These Are Not Your Dreams is on par with that brilliant release.
Naturally, the album is very much structured in three movements but I’m not sure these movements map exactly to the three released EPs. The first movement begins with “the endings that we write”, probably the heaviest sleepmakeswaves track ever made (with the exception of maybe “a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun“, one of my all time favorite tracks by them) It’s not only the blast-beats (yes, blast-beats) that feature on it but also the monstrously groovy and powerful guitar tracks that dominate its center and the culmination of the track in those guitars before the achingly melancholy outro of the track.
In contrast to these changes, another endearing quality of the album is that These Are Not Your Dreams is also patient; not all the new stuff is at the front. The band want to take their time introducing you to these new changes. Therefore, “batavia”, with its yawning opening synths and its twinkling guitar line, and the even more electronic “time wants a skeleton” are classic sleepmakeswaves. They are playful, evocative, hopeful, and passionately post-rock, tinged with the electronic sounds and tones which we’ve grown to love from the band. They ground the album in the history of sleepmakeswaves and give it meaning inside the band’s own discography.
The sea-change begins with the doublet of “cascades” and “pyramids”. While “cascades” is mostly a classic sleepmakeswaves track, the “How We Built the Ocean” to this album’s “Great Northern” (yes I know every sleepmakeswaves track by heart), it also includes a big surprise at its end: vocals. And beautiful, dreamy vocals at that, vocals which work beautifully as an accompaniment to the track’s sweeping outro. But again, patience; “pyramids” which follows it wouldn’t be a stranger on an And So I Watch You From Afar album. It’s springy, energetic, groovy, and joyful, bouncing out of the mix to grab you by the hip and send you swirling into the night. And: no vocals.
These two tracks are not firmly “of” the second movement; they are more like a transition, calling back to the first movement’s energy and vibe while introducing the main motif of the second movement: vocals. The next time that the vocals will return is on “embraced”, the linchpin of the second movement of the album. Here, the combination between thicker riffs and a more bubble-gum sweet timbre for the vocals makes one think of Torche or Elder; this is probably the loudest track on the album, if not the heaviest, because the guitars are so back at its center. Couple that with the new style on the vocals and you have yourself a worthy center to the second movement of the album, one in which the vocals, so uncharacteristic for the band and for the genre, play a major part. Interestingly enough, “embraced” is also the last track of the second EP, perhaps showing that the movements do, after all, correlate to the three releases.
Finally, the last movement of the album begins when the third EP does as well, with the chilled out “mind palace”. In fact, this is what will set apart the third movement from the rest: it is way more relaxed and toned down than the previous two movements and, in some ways, even more than the chillest of sleepmakewaves’ previous works. It is decidedly rooted in a different kind of electronic vibe, once which surveys the world with a sort of resignation but also with a fierce sense of self-identity, secure in its perspective on things. This culminates with the wonderful, self-titled, closing track, the almost seven minutes long “these are not your dreams”. It hints at the cover art, the city stretching away into the night and all the potential which is stored in its multitude of stories, as the bass softly whispers to us of its corners and hidden lanes, melding with the dexterous drums to tell the track’s, and album’s, story.
And thus, here we are, at the end of another masterpiece from one of the greatest bands which post-rock has ever produced. No, I will not stop with the superlatives. These are simply the facts. These Are Not Your Dreams is a bold statement from sleepmakeswaves. It says “we’ve been around for a while now but we’re not ready to stop. We’re not ready to stop growing and to stop challenging the most important of questions that we face as a band: who is sleepmakeswaves?” On this release, the band have shown that there are still many more answers to that question and they are, every single one of them, filled with beautiful, wondrous, heart-bursting music.
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These Are Not Your Dreams releases on July 17th. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll head on over to the band’s Bandcamp above and pre-order it.