Review Summary: “We are the same, but nothing is the same anymore”
Whether it’s “just” sex, drugs and rock n’ roll or a conscious, concerted and perennial quest to fulfill a personal or collective vision and possibly become the best among peers, every outfit is bound to orbit around the blueprint that led to its foundation. The whole circuit – bands, fans, labels, the press etc. - is always onlooking music that differentiates them with respect to the neighborhood; unfortunately, few bands come relative close to realizing their full potential sooner or later, even fewer achieve it from the very start. To the reviewer’s opinion, Greece’s Sleepin Pillow belong to the latter category due to the merit their debut album Apples On An Orange Tree
rightfully bestowed upon them. It took four years for the band to shape its vision regarding the fusion of Western, genre-unspecific music legacy with Greek/Middle-Eastern music tradition; the end result was involved yet straightforward upon piecemeal consumption, but its extreme pivoting between/blending of genres (the album title vehemently implies that in so many words), rendered its digestion a matter of effort. With the momentum and wisdom acquired from their formative elaborations, it took Sleepin Pillow two years to release their sophomore LP Superman’s Blues
, a journey towards heavier, darker, more introvert territories.
Amid the atmospheric but rhythmic segment which kicks off album opener “Holy Monster”, Nomik – the band’s vocalist – is heard humming “We are the same, but nothing is the same anymore”. Apart from foretelling the political context of the song, the aforementioned verse is an abstract, but clear enough declaration that Superman’s Blues
is fundamentally different, as much as it is fundamentally similar to its predecessor. Unlike Apples On An Orange Tree
, the sophomore album is an affair which thrives exclusively in the gloom, albeit with no discount in song writing diversity. The band’s prowess, namely the way folk, psychedelia, and heavy rock (among other traits) fit within the arrangements, is proved time and again. Sleepin Pillow show notable craftsmanship in forging atmospheric, drone-y, ritualistic even, soundscapes that either serve as stepping stones to climaxing, heavy choruses (“Holy Monster”, “Silicone”, “An Idiot’s Point of View”) or form the pillars that underpin evocative ventures into funeral doom metal even (“Pathetic”). Even when the listening ears resonate with the couple of energetic rockers available herein, the mentioned psychedelic passages evolve concurrently and subcutaneously (“Superman’s Blues”) or are put to work as intermissions between tense rock outbursts (“Dope”).
From the middle of the second half onward, music sort of dons a soundtrack costume, with prolonged interludes doffing to regular tracks and so on. However, the adventurous character of the band, as well as the implementation of the new direction, remain intact. And it is so, as the album’s sound work abides to nothing but the highest standards, and rivals productions from world class outfits Sleepin Pillow are only loosely affiliated to. Take the reviewer’s word for it, and listen to Superman’s Blues
with headphones, preferably in the dark. Regarding the performance of each band member, nobody falls behind. Aisha_sama’s bass lines and Antoine’s keys deserve separate commenting. Along with The Skinman’s deceptively simple drumming, the former forms a sturdy backbone for the whole album to lean on; the latter are spot-on in weaving the needed dark landscapes, whereas they even adopt patterns usually encountered in horror films (the hammond outburst before the first chorus in “Holy Monster”). In terms of symmetry and integration, the author of this review likes to link keyboards herein, to the work of Kevin Moore (Dream Theater/Chroma Key) or to Richard Barbieri from Porcupine Tree. As for the guitars of Paris V and Sakis Atzas, while they vaguely adapt to gothic/post punk electro-acoustic and heavy rock themes, their distancing from the legacy of acts such as, say, The Cure or U2 is sustained by the intermingling of folk elements along the way.
The above said, it is no exaggeration to posit that the album could work as an instrumental affair. Truth is that the lyrics and Nomik’s pitch/flawless English enunciation, are instrumental in fleshing the album’s concept, tersely summarized in its title, an indirect reference to Nietzsche’s “Übermensch” treaty. Apart from the politically themed “Holy Monster”, sung verses touch upon topics such as isolation, bigotry, ailing social relations etc., conditions which soar in times of financial and cultural strain, conditions which put on trial even the best of us, those who are supposed to work things out for everyone else. Superman’s Blues
was on the works during such an era, and Nomik adapts his voice to the needs of the lyrics to be sung. In “Pathetic”, he goes under the skin of an individual, who contemplates in retrospect on how deeply he/she failed his closest friend. In “Silicone”, he sounds worn out and self-sarcastic about the supposed usefulness of art under the aforementioned circumstances. In general, Superman’s Blues
gets across a silent cry of discomfort, analogous, but dissimilar to critical stuff that’s already out there, a cry that becomes all the more timely, as almost every sector of life becomes harder and harder to adapt to and get by.