Review Summary: “We don’t know who we are, we don’t know where we are”
The concept of From the Gallery of Sleep
, according to Night Verses, revolves around “the inexplicably limitless parameters we operate through in our dreams.” Importantly, the focus turns out to be on parameters, rather than on limitlessness, and it is within the framework of modesty and limitations that Night Verses paint an achingly beautiful dreamscape. There are no more vocals, only snippets of spoken-word samples that confirm the theme of the work; the instrumentation is kept to a minimal 3-piece set-up, with all electronic effects being hand-triggered.
For once, in describing From the Gallery of Sleep
, I’m comfortable using the vague adjective of “human.” The background effects on “Lira” recall the sound of breathing; Aric Improta’s nimble drumming is imbued with soulfulness; the guitarwork, as rapidly as it ascends and descends through intricate melodies, does not give any airs of attempting to transcend human physical ability. (Contrast this to the likes of Animals as Leaders, if you wish.) Swelling riffs and unpredictable manipulations of tension mirror the irrational intensities of dream emotions; motifs are succinct, and linger just long enough to make an impression before giving way. The expression of “imperfection is human” becomes “irregularity is human” -- a gentler conception.
What, then, of the specific dreamscape that From the Gallery of Sleep
creates? It promises adventure -- the jazzy, mellow “Infinity Beach” is akin to the experience of seeing a psychedelic sunset reflecting on the waves; the frequent use of double harmonic scales (which we commonly think of as sounding “Arabic”) feels foreign in the context of oft-heavy, guitar-driven instrumental music. At its most delicate and languorous, the album seduces -- eerie, chiming harmonics, lulls and sombre acoustic meditations, even the unexpected grooves of “No.0”. All the more shocking, then, when it changes course -- towering riffs appearing from the blue, rapid-fire drum fills, rhythms slipping into syncopation.
And much to my surprise, I’m finding that I think of From the Gallery of Sleep
as sweetly endearing. This would seem to jar with my first impression of the album: mysterious, sprawling, often tense. But if anything, the word to use is curious. From the Gallery of Sleep
subjects itself to a diverse set of moods and landscapes, united by unique parameters that the production sets up. It’s clean, almost cool to the touch, but never sterile or lifeless; it suggests a degree of lucidity. Through evocation of the unusual, we’re led to visualize unfamiliar lands: on the organic side, hand drums on “Vantablonde” and muted bells on “Balboa”; on the inorganic side, uncanny electronic noises that bubble up and distort.
That From the Gallery of Sleep
dances so gracefully from scene to scene is why it endears. Think of dream plots: upon conscious reflection, they never make much sense, and yet they feel impactful and coherent during the dream itself. That sense of coherence often survives after you’ve awaken, even as its logic falls under scrutiny. From the Gallery of Sleep
seems to capture at least a fleeting impression of that particular feeling -- no small feat.