Artist: Sleeping At Last
Release Date: 04/22/14
Reviewer: Josh Hamm
The Atlas project just may be the best compilation of music Sleeping At Last has put out. As with all his projects, Ryan O’Neal blends his own unique concoction of indie rock, pop and movie score sensibilities. And while I think that he won’t surpass the rich, subtle sounds of the two Space EPs, Oceans is one of my favourites from Atlas, and a fitting way to close the project.
O’Neal wrote on his website about the extensive research he did; watching hours of beautifully photographed footage of water, both above and below the surface. The amazing thing is that I can almost tell that he had done so. There’s a visual aspect to the EP, a sense of wonder that draws me in and allows my mind’s eye to explore the depths of the sea and the fearful majesty of the open waves.
Opening with “Pacific” and “Atlantic,” (both of which are songs from the Yearbook set of EPs) the repetition is glorious. O’Neal revels in the monotony of life, slowly letting the tide in and out in his songs, as he uses soft piano notes, illustrating the calm waves, before the rushing violin convey the sense of roaring hills of indigo blue. “Indian” is ushered into being with soft, probing piano notes against a backdrop of a creaking boat. It then builds, adding wordless vocals and creating an almost epic atmosphere that invokes a sense of wonder and discovery, before granting a reprieve that allows you to reflect on that self same wonder, and then hitting you with it again.
Opening with echoing sonar beeps, “Southern” is a song that waits beneath the surface, before rising and escaping from the depths into the ocean air, and then diving down again. It’s a subtle song that rewards repeated plays, with more to be discovered each time you listen. But the best song is undoubtedly “Arctic.” It’s a brittle blend of piano, cello, percussion, and recorded sounds that each play off each other and allow each sound and instrument to shine, as the song shimmers and glistens like a mirage; you never know exactly what you’re getting. It soars majestically as the drums are backed by the sound of ice breaking, and O’Neal’s almost angelic voice blends seamlessly with the cello, as if a long awaited melody is breaching the surface which had enclosed it, and we are hearing it for the first time.
Overall: I’ve come to associate Sleeping At Last with beautiful music that rings with poetic truth – not just the lyrics, but the music itself sings with a life of its own. Oceans is no exception. Ryan O’Neal has taken a look at our world’s bodies of water, and created his own worlds within them. This is a collection of songs to calm, to inspire, to revel in, and to provoke wonder. Oceans may not be a complex cornucopia of sounds and instruments, choosing instead to rely heavily on the piano, but its deceptive simplicity will reel you in.
RIYL: La Liberte, Future of Forestry, Sigur Ros, The ocean