nedjelja, 17. veljače 2013.

Sleepingdog - With Our Heads in the Clouds and Our Hearts in the Fields (2011) + True Bypass

Belgijska pjevačica Chantal Acda i Adam Wiltzie (polovica benda Stars of The Lid) rade onu vrstu muzike u kojoj se divan glas uvlači klaviru u dušu i vadi mu kosti. Usporeno, kao kad u slow motionu metak pogađa kap kiše.
(S Craigom Wardom Chantal radi nešto slično u projektu True Bypass.)
streaming: Gizeh Records


Sleepingdog live at [F]luister 09: Vimeo

Sleepingdog is the collaborative moniker of Belgian singer-songwriter Chantal Acda and hallowed drone-God Adam Wiltzie of Stars of the Lid. 'With Our Heads In The Clouds and Out Hearts In The Fields' is their third album together, and probably the most successful blend to date of Acda's introverted songs and Wiltzie's instantly recognizable drones. They manage to rope in a couple of collaborators too in the shape of Touch artist and cellist Hildur Gudnadottir and violinist Chester Diamond, and this orchestral lilt adds just the right amount of levity to an already beautiful selection of songs. I suppose there is hardly a shortage of singer/songwriters willing to allow their pieces to be tampered with these days, but the sublime subtlety of Sleepingdog is what instantly sets it apart from the competition. Wiltzie's distinctly cinematic touch is evident from the first notes, and the glorious haunted palate that made 'Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid' so appealing is evident immediately. Juxtaposed with Acda's breathy vocals we get something unexpected; I never listened to Stars of the Lid thinking that the sounds could be successfully re-framed as pop music, but here it is. Sure there are none of the bells and whistles you might expect from the latest Taylor Swift single, but this is such deeply memorable stuff, and more importantly focuses on real songs. It's just that the songs have a little more weight to them than usual, and like Sigur Ros before it, the texture and depth is what will have you coming back for more again and again. Gorgeous. - boomkat

The typically long and some may say pretentious title marks this out as one of those certain to have appeal amongst the Sigur Ros brigade. The music is heartfelt, swooning at times, based around beautiful piano motifs, church organs and reverberated strings which build elegantly and expertly. Acda's voice is a pleasure too, with a charming naive way of singing which perhaps comes from the English as second language syndrome. The surprise really is despite the background of those involved the album at times is rather straight laced. The songs are generally straightforward with not too much in the way of experimentation or anything really to grab the ear. There are several moments of sublime ambient beauty particularly on 'Horse Lullaby' which with its rich organ textures, sub bass and gorgeous strings, possibly the closest this album gets to the textural minimalist approach of Stars of the Lid. More moments like this would have significantly more appeal than the twinkling piano and voice of some of their more sugary efforts. That, said however, this stuff sells in bucket loads so if you are a fan of Sigur Ros or any of their Icelandic counterparts, or a Stars of The Lid nut this is a must buy. - Norman Records

Now here's a brilliant idea: take Stars of the Lid's Adam Wiltzie, with all of the production and compositional promise that that brings with it, and pair him with chanteuse Chantal Acda, who contributes beautiful vocalizing and a well-honed song sensibility, and what results is a stunning collection of electronic-folk balladry called With Our Heads in the Clouds and Our Hearts in the Fields. The two first collaborated on the last track, “The Struggle,” of Wiltzie's 2004 release The Dead Texan (kranky), before formalizing their Sleepingdog partnership on Naked in a Clean Bed (Zeal, 2006) and Polar Life (Gizeh/Zeal, 2008) prior to this third album's creation.
Placing the album's longest song first is a bold move but in this case one that pays off handsomely. “Untitled Ballad of You and Me” is buoyed by a simple yet haunting theme first voiced by piano alone and then paired with Acda's fragile, tremulous voice. In fact, the music proves so alluring, you may find yourself hard pressed to remember what she's singing about, so transfixing is the material on purely sonic grounds. A key change finds the song moving from initial moments of uplift into a slightly darker section dominated by organ and multi-tracked vocals before reverting back to the sparse piano-and-vocals arrangement with which it began. Of course there are other sounds present too, yet they're woven so seamlessly into the overall fabric they're sometimes easy to miss. In a typical song, vocals and keyboards, piano especially, inhabit the foreground, while acoustic guitar, strings (courtesy of cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir and violinist Chester Desmond), and subtle atmospheric embellishments flesh out the painterly background.
Like the first song, “It Leaves Us Silent” pairs its gorgeous vocal and piano melody presented together, while what sounds like a mellotron—with all of the King Crimson and Moody Blues associations it brings with it—provides powerfully evocative backing. A similarly affecting melodic quality elevates “He Loved to See the World Through His Camera,” a song that finds Wiltzie's voice in a rare moment shadowing Acda's, and the slow-burning anthem “Scary Movie.” Her voice becomes a mere whisper alongside wavering long tones during “Kitten Plays the Harmony Rocket,” an ambient setting whose title and style comes closest of all the album's tracks to resembling a Stars of the Lid composition. The album's title is well-chosen, given how much its material combines the ethereal and the emotional into a haunting, forty-three-minute collection that ends up sounding both earthy and heavenly. Though it's early in the year, one might anticipate seeing Our Heads in the Clouds and Our Hearts in the Fields on at least a few year-end 'best of' lists.-

Once upon a time in the days of the Belgian Franc, Chantal Acda made the acquaintance Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie, and the two became fast friends through a mutual love of disco bowling, and 1970's Danish scary movies. They first collaborated with vocals together on the infamous last track, 'The Struggle' on Mr. Wiltzie's 2004 'The Dead Texan' (kranky)
Now, over the course of 10 years, this strange friendship has slowly developed into a musical collaboration which at this point is a rarity for Mr. Wiltzie, because of his notorious slow burning output for his deservedly or unlawfully, but undeniably legendary Stars of the Lid.
For their new release, 'With Our Heads in the Clouds and Our Hearts in the Fields', these two have somehow gone back in time to capture the sound of glacial moving, dark cough syrup pop music. Mr. Wiltzie has manipulated his trademark Stars of the Lid sound of haunting ambience, deconstructing, and funneling it through the beautiful voice, and song compositions of Chantal Acda. Together, Sleepingdog have gently abducted these gaseous tones, and choruses of pacific tree frogs into some beautifully crafted melancholic orchestration that reminds us all that we exist in a world of strangers, drifting only two feet apart. -

With Our Heads In The Clouds And Our Hearts In The Fields is the third album from duo Sleepingdog. The group, which sees the pairing of Stars of the Lid member Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie and Chantal Acda who is one half of True Bypass, offer songs that take on an unusual pop formula.
From the offset this approach is clear, with the more experimental intuition of Wiltzie’s past compositions providing an avant-garde backdrop to Acda’s intimate vocals. On Untitled Ballad of You and Me, the droned chords of an electronic keyboard are gradually supported by some minimalist piano play. Later strings and organ also join the proceedings, working to assist the sharp processed lyrics that Acada emits.
On He Loved to See the World Through His Camera, Acda’s tonality is at its melodic best with uplifting and evocative notes resonating deeply within the listener. This experience is enhanced by manipulated and bass heavy strings which, when bowed create a heavy atmosphere around the vocals. The track also includes plucked strings to add an additional layer of sound to this texturally rich creation.
Elsewhere, Scary Movie also comes as a recommended track. One here presumes the title of the song refers to Witlzie and Acada’s shared love for Dutch horror movies from the ‘70s. Once again it is a gentle piano accompaniment that supports the vocals with strings often arriving to provide a greater dimension to the overall score.
With guest support from Hildur Gudnadottir on cello and Chester Desmond on violin, With Our Heads In The Clouds And Our Hearts In The Fields is an album built by a pool of expert sound crafters. In addition, the two central performers, Witlzie and Acada, ensure that their experimental desires do not interfere with creating an accessible auditory experience for the listener. The result is pop music with an ambient twist and one that should appeal to fans and new listeners alike.
Josh Atkin for Fluid Radio

 Sleepingdog is hardly the face of modern day indie, but they have still managed to make quite an impact on those who have experienced their music. Pure, elegant, and breathtaking were all words used to describe 2008’s Polar Life, an album that intrigued listeners in search of something they could truly get lost in. Its simple but mesmerizing formula was the work of artists with true ambition; artists who were in tune with their own dreams as much as the demands of their listeners. As could be expected, Polar Life ended up being a rewarding and satisfying experience on both ends. The band’s newest effort follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, carrying its fans on a spiritual odyssey that will truly leave their heads in clouds of abstractness and their hearts in earthy fields of poetic aspiration.
One of With Our Heads in the Clouds & Our Hearts in the Fields’ most enjoyable attributes is Adam Wiltzie’s awe-inspiring soundscapes, which seem to guide the course for Chantal Acda’s entrancing vocals. The songs are mostly piano driven, with an ice-tinged feel that give the record a lifeless, detached feeling. Occasionally strings, horns, synthesizers, and other accessories are added into the mix to achieve a heightened sense of emotion. However, it is this keyboard-driven ambience that defines With Our Heads in the Clouds, much like it did Polar Life a few years back. The soft, supple arrangements and electronic inclusions contribute to a natural flow within the album that makes it quite the cohesive work – with nary a forced or artificial moment to break up the magic created by string after string of beautiful, almost celestial, atmospheres. Despite With Our Heads in the Clouds’ capabilities to contain a vast scope within itself, its overall sound achieves intimacy rather than expansiveness. By utilizing a minimalist approach to achieve a sense of calm still, the album is strikingly reminiscent of an afternoon spent lazily staring out the window while droplets of water collect on the outside edge of the sill. Strictly from an instrumental perspective, one might compare this album’s soundscape to Sigur Ros, with tracks like the opening ‘Untitled Ballad of You and Me’ showing us what would happen if ( )’s ‘Untitled 3’ was toned down and given vocals to add (or take away, depending on your perspective) from the song’s emotional impact. From front to back, though, With Our Heads in the Clouds & Our Hearts in the Fields is an album of riveting instrumental arrangements and emotionally charged atmospheres.
Chantal Acda’s vocal contributions are no small triumph either, serving as both a means for the listener to relate lyrically to the music as well as providing angelic melodies that permeate Wiltzie’s already poignant soundscapes. The breathy, optimistic ‘It Leaves Us Silent’ is a prime example of Acda’s ability to take a simple instrumental foundation and turn it into a haunting masterpiece. The closing ‘Scary Movie’ offers up a spacey atmosphere that gives Chantal plenty of room to work with, as she gives one of her most impressive vocal performances to date. The gentle caress of her voice ends the album on an impressive note - even though its downtrodden, depressing aura may leave you feeling shattered instead of elated. As a whole, Sleepingdog once again manages to intertwine Acda’s vocals with a wealth of stunning soundscapes that make With Our Heads in the Clouds & Our Hearts in the Fields an album worthy of both critical and fan-based acclaim. The album is not a very far walk away from Polar Life, which may disappoint those who were hoping for a departure that was equally as brilliant. Sure, there are some minor tweaks – notably the drop in aura to something less uplifting and more brooding/serious – but for the most part Sleepingdog holds their course steady. Despite this minor complaint, it is difficult to find fault with what the band has created here. It may be similar stylistically, but that doesn’t make it any less captivating to the ears that it will so effortlessly grace. With their latest LP, Sleepingdog has once again created an album that will haunt our ears, engage our minds, and ultimately embrace our hearts. - SowingSeason

"Along with the unembellished musical accompaniment from Hildur Gudnadottir and Chester Desmond on cello and violin respectively, it is the vocals provided by Acda that successfully colour With Our Heads...'s hazy soundscape, her icy and yet somehow sweet falsetto injecting both a heavenly appeal and cold isolation to the transcendental climes. However while the mood and tempo endure this could lead to the recording being deemed as as light in substance as it is in acoustics. Though frankly it succeeds for this subdued feeling with which it hypnotises. Drifting and dreamy and teaming, once again, a talented, if niche pair together." SUBBA CULTCHA

"nothing is over done or added unnecessarily resulting in a touching serenity overall." FUTURE SEQUENCE

"It's not often music so quiet and seemingly understated has the capacity to envelop the listener's mind so completely within a matter of a couple of minutes, prompting them - quite unwittingly - to stop everything and simply listen, mouth half-open, rapt by the sheer beauty of the sound." 9/10 WHISPERIN & HOLLERIN

Polar Life (2008)
streaming: MySpace
streaming: Gizeh Records


 Sleepingdog is the recording alias of Belgian songwriter and vocalist Chantal Acda, who teams up with Adam Wiltzie of Stars Of The Lid and Dead Texan fame for a wonderfully understated album, filled with emotive slowcore and quietly epic orchestrations. As you'd probably hope, Wiltzie seems to have carried over from Stars Of The Lid his ability to make rich string arrangements and electronic ambience seem unassuming and miniaturised, cradling Acda's songs wonderfully throughout the album. By anyone's measure this is an unusual singer-songwriter exercise, taking focus away from the usual guitar and vocals setup, instead situating synthesizers, mellotron and vibraphonette at the heart of the record. Opening piece 'Prophets' sets out Sleeping Dog's stall nicely, condensing a seemingly expansive instrumental arsenal into a home-recorded setting without anything sounding awry. You'll find other pieces - such as the title track - confining themselves to rather brittle electronic palettes, but at its most rewarding the album will suddenly open up, as on the sublime closing song 'If Only', which embraces more three-dimensional dynamics with piano keys ringing out more assuredly than on previous, occasionally rather timid tracks; they combine rousingly with drawn-out string tones and breathily uttered vocals. Highly recommended. - boomkat

 Life is beautiful. Sometimes if you wake up early enough you can see the sun’s face slowly peek over the horizon. Not when it’s warm or anything, but when it adds that sort of color to the world. A brilliant gold. And when those friendly tendrils stretch through that blanket of fog, illuminating, exposing little particles of nature you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. That’s the feeling. Dew, spherical, chilly, biting your feet. Long grass reaching up to shake your hand. Too good to be true, although, you know it is. Flinching as you pinch yourself, you’re still there. The horrid part about life is that it eventually withers and dies. For sure you’d be the happiest person on earth if you could live in this moment among the wildlife. Life doesn’t work like that though. One day you will be nothing but fertilizer for everything you see before you, you fear it, it haunts you.
Like you’re stranded on an iceberg, floating, simply existing. Going nowhere. Blue-green water slops up at you, but you ignore it. The sky is black except for a sliver of the moon that sits on the water in front of you, taunting you. As far as you know there is nothing else, nobody to help you, nothing to comfort you. You don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you don’t love, you don’t feel. You just know. The darkness begs that you plunge into the water, breaking its mirror-like surface. Despite much struggle, the iceberg doesn’t let you go. It hasn’t ever let anything go. It hates that you’ve been somewhere other than this place, the Otherworld. It hates earth, all the joy, sorrow, pain, caring, and love that have been produced there. These feelings are not mutual.
Just like last night you awake with a fright. The bed has all the signs of a fragmented yet deep sleep. Drool on the snow-white pillowcase, blankets thrown in a heap at the foot of the bed, and the sheets have come undone and have skillfully wrapped themselves around an arm. It might be yours but it’s almost as alien as the iceberg. Dried salt is still crusted to your face, crying should probably be removed from your nightly ritual. If only forgetfulness were an option. Another day begins, another dollar to be made. Skipping work sounds like a good idea, but in the end slavery to orthodoxy prevails. Next week is vacation though, which means only one thing. Time to stop, watch the sunrise, and take time to think: Life is beautiful.- Luke Rhinehart

  Chantal Acda has been performing and recording under the name Sleepingdog since 2006. 'Polar Life' is her second album following her debut 'Naked in a Clean Bed' which was released on Zeal back in 2006. On both these records Chantal has worked with Adam Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid/Dead Texan). Adam has become an essential part of the music, bringing his trademark soundscapes and strings into the songs and handling production duties. Wiltzie suggested to select for 'Polar Life' only those songs in which beats are all but absent, so the subdued pureness and the unity of the atmosphere of the album go beyond the limits of New-Folk and Folktronica. The fitful climate and the fairy-like atmosphere of Iceland remains a great source of inspiration for the music of Sleepingdog. Thus the poem 'Nú hverfur sól í haf' by the Icelandic author and poet Sigurbjörn Einarsson was used as a starting point for the track 'The Sun sinks in the Sea'. For the first time a cover appears on a Sleepingdog album: 'If Only' by Sophia, a song that was already popular when sung live. Previous to Sleepingdog, Chantal recorded under her own name to release 'Dreamy Yell' in 1999 before moving from her nativeNetherlands to Belgium. In 2003 her new band Chacda released 'La Sortie' and toured the UK with Lambchop. Chantal has also shared stages with the likes of Calexico, Okkervil River, Iron & Wine and Daniel Johnston. A recent UK tour with Glissando was incredibly well received. "It's hard to put a label on this music. Is it Dreamy Nu Folk, Folktronica or just singer-songwriting after the finest traditions of Mitchell, Ian, Denny et al? To be honest though, a label isn't really necessary when the quality of the songs and performance are such as this, just enjoy." (Echoes and Dust) "Quiet is the new loud. Possibly. Anyway, there's an almost complete lack of any percussion, as minimal acoustic soundscapes swirl around Chantal Acda's quavering, vulnerable voice. There are suggestions of Mazzy Star, Stina Nordenstam and even Bjork at her very, very quietest. There's even a banjo on one song. Awesome." (Die Shellsuit Die) - (Sophia) Norman Records
It’s a rare delight when music completely unknown to you pops out of thin air to become one of your favorite releases of the year. Not that I intend to give away the ending of this review or anything.
Like most music of genuine quality, the sound of Polar Life is a tricky one to define easily. The lead is taken by either piano and acoustic guitar (although sometimes both are used), while a minimalist approach to backing of sparse electronics and strings serves to complement the sound without ever crowding the mix away from a familiar closeness.
Sleepingdog work a delicate tracery of gently revolving notes, an almost Broadrick-esque centrifugal pull of repetition that focuses on tight melodic songs that rarely outstay their welcome. The vocals float on top of the mix, never quite becoming an ethereal shoegaze echo but drifting over the piano and guitar like fine mist.
To these ears, the songs that focus on the use of the piano as a main instrument are the superior tunes on the record. This is particularly true at the beginning of the album, where the likes of “Prophets,” “Your Eyes,” and “The Sun Sinks In The Sea” lull you into a soft bliss. However, a distinct sense of ubiquity is ever-present and gives the listener the impression that all the songs could quite easily have been written on either instrument. All the material on Polar Life comes across as simple – I don’t mean that in any derogatory sense, or to imply that there isn’t a strongly developed sense of songcrafting on here. What I mean is that there is an element of purity to the material, an inherent gentleness that permeates each track..
At times it feels that more may have been made of the backing instrumentation (in particular I’d love to hear what could be done with incorporating more electronic elements), and there is something of a classic mid-album slump bookended by the finer material. There is no particular punch or vigor to the music, but in all honesty that's something Sleepingdog is better off without anyway. If you're after something beautiful to lay across your ear canal on a pleasant Spring morning, you could do a hell of a lot worse than this.Matt T.

 “a beautifully conceived and touchingly faint and tender ten track suite. Both bewitching and impeccably elegant, Acda and Wiltzie have crafted a rare thing of unfailing beauty that manages to simultaneously hurt, humble, heal and seduce. These winter worn fancies delightfully caress and enchant, like fading memories captured in celluloid they are tinged and dispatched with a timeless aura, the melodies classically trod - sensual, sensitive, sparse and scenic though bitter sweetly forlorn in their woven intimacy to provide an achingly fragile and beguiling backdrop for Acda’s shyly recluse and retiring like alluring intonations - none more so is the case than on the captivating and hymnal like ‘the sun sinks in the sea‘.” LOSING TODAY

“Some music is quiet, no matter how loud you turn it up. Quiet is the new loud. Possibly. Anyway, there's an almost complete lack of any percussion, as minimal acoustic soundscapes swirl around Chantal Acda's quavering, vulnerable voice. There are suggestions of Mazzy Star, Stina Nordenstam and even Bjork at her very, very quietest. There's even a banjo on one song. Awesome.” DSD
“‘Polar Life’, like the work of Nico circa ‘Desertshore’ and ‘The Marble Index’, or the cabin-folk of Bon Iver, speaks of solitude and emotional twilight, and should speak to the hearts of the beautifully glum.” PENNYBLACK


True Bypass, True Bypass
streaming:  Last.FM

Chantal Acda (Sleepingdog, Isbells, Chacda) and Craig Ward (The Love Substitutes, iH8 Camera, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen, ex-dEUS and Kiss My Jazz) first met onboard an aeroplane bound for Glasgow. Later that evening they performed together onstage which speaks volumes about the spontaneous and intuitive character of the pair, who felt from the beginning that there was something unique in the air whenever they picked up their acoustic guitars.
Two sensitive souls who, automatically and without planning, started writing songs together, acoustic and pure.
Whether in a farmhouse attic in Hoegaarden, a bedroom in Portland, Oregon, or a studio in Mechelen, the songs kept coming. It was apparent, during recording sessions and live shows, that something special was happening - songs would emerge direct and unpolished from the heart, as True Bypass.
The debut album True Bypass was released in Benelux and the UK by Jezus Factory and distributed by Bertus in the Benelux and Shellshock in the UK.-

TRUE BYPASS – Beautiful Debut Album from Craig Ward (dEUS) & Chantal Acda (Sleepingdog)
by Red Cell

First meeting on an airplane bound for Glasgow, Chantal Acda (Sleepingdog, Chacda) and Craig Ward (The Love Substitutes, iH8 Camera, dEUS) performed together onstage later that same evening, showing just how spontaneous and intuitive this duo can be. They have since formed a new, collaborative project and named it True Bypass. Their debut album is out on Sept. 15th on the Jezus Factory label. They currently reside in Antwerp, Belgium.

There is a fragile honesty to True Bypass. While mainly simple-structured acoustic songs, the vocals and the other sparse instrumentation have a hyper-real, manipulated feeling, giving the album much more than your normal singer-songwriter vibe. Think of the simple, but highly produced sound of This Mortal Coil crossed with the integrity of Vincent Gallo’s album “When.” The album was mastered by Uwe Teichert, who’s work with bands like Placebo and dEUS (as well as Public Enemy!) would explain the open but intimate sound the album maintains. Chantal Acda’s vocals wander dangerously close to precious at times, but she never becomes sappy or sugary, and in the end leaves the listener with the sense of a close friend singing them softly to sleep. Nina Nastasia and the Innocence Mission would be good points of reference for this, both in tone and sound. When Craig Ward offers his quiet harmony, it seems natural and immediate. This is a delicate and personal album that I am glad to have had the chance to share with these musicians. And it feels just like that. Like I am sharing these songs with the duo that wrote them, possibly just for me.

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