Sydney Post-rock darlings release new album with long name, to the chagrin of early-millennials who still use Winamp.

Release date: April 5, 2024 | Bird’s Robe Records | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

I’ve seen the live music scene take some real hits in Sydney over the last twenty-plus years, from the slow infiltration of pokies and constant downsizing of the Gaelic Club to the protracted battle with the cancer that is entitled yuppie-scum neighbours that the Annandale Hotel eventually succumbed to. Thankfully, one of the better venues has weathered the winds of change, surviving lockouts and lockdowns alike; thankfully because its layout is (mostly) friendly to hobbit-sized concert goers such as myself, its location is central to public transportation hubs in the CBD, but more importantly, because their sound setup is one of the better ones in the state.

I’ve enjoyed many an amazing gig at the Manning Bar, including acts the likes of SUNN O))), Boris, Sleep, High On Fire, Eagle Twin, Monarch!, Every Time I Die, Mono, Bell Witch, ConanPotion, and Cog to name a few. A boon then, that my first exposure to sleepmakeswaves was a show at the Manning in support of the release of their phenomenal 2011 album …And So We Destroyed Everything; my introduction to their music taking place at a venue where I could see them easily and hear them with some of the greatest clarity in the state. And though I revisited that album multiple times in the intervening years, I never really explored any of the albums they’ve released since. Indeed, a lot has changed between then and It’s Here, But I Have No Names For It, chiefly being founding guitarist Jonathan Khor’s departure from the band back in 2015. But just how different are things? Let’s find out…

Album opener “All Hail Skull” begins with a comfortably ‘sleepmakeswaves‘ riff; Otto Wicks-Green’s high-pitched, soaring, and uplifting guitar notes carrying the song, backed with rich, rolling bass, and energetic drums. A good start, considering how much I hyper-focussed my attention on “to you they are birds, to me they are voices in the forest” and its consummate example of songwriting craft in the past. A very good start indeed; despite time and change, their music is still more than capable of evoking a clear feeling in the listener, this song in particular being loaded with a sense of joy and triumph that has me eager to see where the trio will take me with this record.

“Super Realm Park” carries those good vibes over, kicked off by a fun and cheerful synth line that leads into the song proper, itself a bright and winding journey. The guitars and bass steadily grow heavier until the two-thirds mark, where things slow right down, only for the trio to again build to an emotional crescendo of furious trem-picking and swirling bass.

Deep and dirty bass kicks “Ritual Control” off with a sense of urgency, which remains once the intro ends, and the guitars calm down some. A third of the way into the track, drummer Tim Adderley gets to let loose, the beat growing frantic before the back end of the song, where the refrain repeats a little heavier and a little slower, with the band recapitulating to ensure that you pick up what they’re putting down. “Black Paradise” begins with some sweet, lilting acoustic guitar before the music proper begins, and part way through some strings are incorporated, which imbue the track with a dash of folk whimsy.

“Verdigris” is a curious beast. It almost feels like an intermission of sorts, beginning with towering synth and feeling like it was pulled directly from the Blade Runner 2049 score. Images of grey skies, flying cars, and tears in the rain come to mind, before a sombre piano joins the fray; it’s almost Fuck Buttons by way of Vangelis, and is absolutely gorgeous…but I can’t help but feel like it’s a little out of place with the rest of the record.

The opening moments of “Terror Future” allow bassist Alex Wilson to flex – his riffs are smooth, rich, and laden with swirling groove that’s sure to put a rumble in your guts. And in an interesting choice for a largely instrumental band, the back end of this track features vocals, which I was not expecting. They don’t derail the song or stand out too much, and since the heavy lifting in creating the tone of the track has already been accomplished with just instruments, they enhance the mood established here, rather than hijacking it.

The title track is the longest song on the record and uses its runtime to tell a gamut of different emotional journeys. The opening part is a relaxed and tranquil voyage, the guitars building up to a glorious crescendo where – similar to the previous track – echoing, dream-like, and ethereal vocals come in after the band have already painted a picture in your mind’s ear. This kicks off an epic emotional peak of stomping drums, subterranean bass, and screaming guitar for a few minutes until the storm wall passes, pretty strings and delicate piano notes bringing the song to a poignant close.

Album closer “This Close Forever” begins with a charming piano and guitar duet that slowly builds momentum, weight, and complexity, until the band ends up wrangling a wall of sound into an incredibly comfortable blanket of post-rock noise for you to pull up under your chin and fall asleep to as the album comes to an extremely emotionally satisfying finish.

While the more casual music listeners would see any lack of lyrics to tell the song’s stories as a negative, just as with other instrumental acts it has been proven to actually be a feature not a bug – being free from the constraints of any words either explicit or abstract aids in eliciting a more emotional response that is personal to each individual listener. To that end, with It’s Here, But I Have No Names For It, sleepmakeswaves demonstrate yet again that they are at the forefront of instrumental post-rock. So how different are things since I first discovered the band? Despite the years and line-up changes, their songwriting is still multi-layered and intricate without being overbearing or pretentious, allowing for multiple listens to really soak in the hard work that went into putting the tracks down on tape, all surrounded here by a deeply evocative sense of joy and wonder. A beautiful album.

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