Review: Invisible Elephant – Sleepwalking

Blackpool’s Invisible Elephant offered the tantalising prospect of shoegaze folk on his last album ‘Anomie Or Swimming In A Black Sea’. Its mixture of acoustic simplicity and guitar-fuelled chaos made for a varied if rather unsettling experience. Robert Blue’s new project, however, is a concept album of sorts, assembling a soundtrack to the feelings experienced of being awake, drifting off, sleeping, dreaming and waking up again.

Invisible Elephant Album Cover

The first thing to notice is how quiet everything is, particularly Blue’s vocals which amount to an almost inaudible whisper, almost as if the elephant in question is luring us into a state of unconsciousness. However, a few rude blasts of effects-saturated guitar later and this problem no longer exists. ‘From The Bottom Of A Well’ (with Maryliz Guillemi accompanying Blue) returns to the quiet psych folk sound of old, resembling Slowdive at their most subdued. ‘Slow Wave’ encapsulates that mid-sleep stage, crashing shoegaze walls fade in and out whilst the singer repeats the only lyric “slow wave, no need to wake”, varying his tone slightly each time.

The ten daunting minutes of ‘Fugue State’ also thrive on repetition but the mood is restless here and given the nightmarish, disorientating feel of the song, playing it on loop would possibly lead to being diagnosed with the disorder suggested by the title. ‘Never There’ is possibly the stand out moment. As is the norm, the atmosphere begins subtly but gradually the track ratchets up the intensity as layer upon layer of machine noise is added creating a compelling whole. Guillemi teams up with Blue again for the comparatively blissful and spare ‘Two Moons’and then there is the bonus track named ‘Anatomy Of A Crow’, which adds mournful strings to another bleak and lengthy slow burner of a song.

Admittedly, this is a bleak album too with little room let in for shades of light. However, the album’s concept is expertly delivered and embellished with enough variation and attractive melancholy to merit repeated listens. The hypnotic yet unsettling effects though are possibly not recommended for insomniacs.

Web Sites:
Invisible Elephant Official Site
Invisible Elephant – Sleepwalking on Bandcamp

Further Listening:
Flying Saucer Attack, Talvihorros

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