Deakin ‘Sleep Cycle’ – Review

19 May

Deakin is Animal Collective’s unknown quantity. He wasn’t involved in their greatest success (‘Meriwether Post Pavillion’) or their biggest failure (this year’s poorly received ‘Painting With’). His contributions have been modest and his voice has been the least heard. Nonetheless, his one vocal addition to the fairly unlistenable ‘Centepiede HZ’, ‘Wide Eyed’, resulted in the album’s finest moment. ‘Sleep Cycle’ is his first solo album and it suggests that perhaps Deakin had more of an influence than we thought. In its tone and soundscapes it recalls the lush beauty of ‘Feels’ and ‘Song Tungs’ era Animal Collective. It’s a short but lovely record.

In fact It’s a shame ‘Sleep Cycle’ is flying so low under the radar as it’s the best thing to come out of the Animal Collective camp since ‘Fall be Kind’. It has none of the restless uncertainty of Panda Bear’s ‘Meets the Grim Reaper’, and it’s nowhere near as annoying as ‘Centepeide HZ’ or ‘Painting With’. It’s ethereal melodies and earthy instrumentation return us to the band’s early artistic endeavours when the group were basically folky hippies with an interest in electronics and psychedelic indulgences.

Whilst an unremarkable singer, it’s notable how similar Deakin sounds to Panda Bear, albeit with a less angelic tone. His melodies, set free by simple, Unfussy lyrics, are ambitiously fluid and compelling. He’s obviously been paying close attention to his band mate over the years. This comfortable familiarity is offset by the unexpected musical journeys he takes us on. ‘Sleep Cycle’ was initially inspired by a trip to ‘Mali’ and you feel the unfamiliarity of those surroundings in the dislocated beats, shuffling rhythms and acoustic oscillations. Occasionally field recordings are utilised with impressive effect, as on the short centrepiece ‘Shadow Mine’, On which Deakin pants and whimpers ‘when I get lonely…’ over what sounds like a religious chant. This part-instrumental / part field recording helps to break up the album in to two distinctive sections.

Here then is the AnCo member who understands pacing. Deakin knows that you can’t just hit your listener over the head with disorientating sounds and beats right out the gate and then continue to batter them in to submission for the rest of the album. ‘Sleep Cycle’ builds beautifully, starting with the acoustic ‘Golden Chords’ which slowly washes over ambient samples before melting in to the more poppy ‘Just Am’. It’s only with perfect timing, after yet more build that we get the frantic and unnerving ‘Footy’, which is as loud and brash as anything on ‘Painting With’ but isolated and surrounded by more lush and ornate textures. Listening to ‘Footy’ feels like you’ve reached the top of the mountain, or any high; everything before was leading to this point and everything after gently brings you down.

Clocking in at half an hour with only five ‘proper’ songs, ‘Sleep Cycle’ leaves you wanting more. It’s a slight but meticulously crafted album. Far from being the disposable member, it turns out that Deakin was a crucial clog in the Animal Collective machine. Based on this evidence, they will sorely miss his contributions for as long as he stays away.

7.5/10

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