Release Date – 6th April 2016
It’s been a long time since Animal Collective’s Deakin (Josh Dibb) opened up a Kickstarter project to raise funds for a solo album in 2009. Finally, the 7 year long ordeal is over and despite the wait and unrealistically high expectations, the project somehow has its happy ending. There has been an awful lot of miscommunication over the past few years, with people who backed the Kickstarter feeling abandoned after its disappearance and lack of updates; the album never came, and neither did the rewards for those who pledged.
So why was the album pushed back for so long? Almost $26,000 was raised, some of which was supposed to fund his trip to play a festival in Mali, which would ultimately lead to the release of a solo album. Instead, most of the money raised went to the charity TEMEDT, an organisation trying to end slavery in Mali, and only a small portion went into the production of the album and its accompanying book.
In the end, even with the money and inspiration from his trip, he didn’t feel like he had anything worth putting out. This, combined with a number of personal issues and a flooded studio saw the album release pushed back almost indefinitely, and it wasn’t until 2015, when he decided not to work on the next Animal Collective record that things finally started to come together. With a new sense of confidence in his work, Sleep Cycle could finally be perfected.
Despite the difficulties, the release did eventually arrive and miraculously Deakin managed to produce an album which has sidestepped its expectations. Sleep Cycle, Deakin’s debut solo effort, is noticeably short and consists of just six tracks with just a 33 minute runtime; he knows when to experiment and when to shave off any unnecessary, self-indulgent segments, making for a consistent and cohesive record. Like Animal Collective, the songs here are coated in reverb and packed with wild, psychedelic, sonic features, but while the album still has this characteristic feel to it, it’s also much more raw, introspective and far more personal. He works field recordings into the album which create a dense, lush landscape, giving the songs a warm and organic sound. There’s a lot packed into Sleep Cycle, a record brimming with fantastic songwriting and memorable melodies.
“a wonderful mix of gleaming psychedelic synths and reverb-laden percussion; everything is shrouded under another vibrant shimmering layer…”
Golden Chords, the opening track of the album, demonstrates Dibb’s talent not only as a competent songwriter, but a distinct solo artist separate of Animal Collective. The song contains a repeating guitar line alongside Dibb’s strikingly melodic vocals which are delivered in such a charming way that it demands your full attention. The refrain “You tell me what’s wrong, but what’s right?” is particularly memorable and one of many moments on the album you find floating around your head a long time after listening. Behind the mix, filling the gaps, you can hear a dense layer of organic sounds, perhaps a field recording of some rural landscape in Mali. It all comes together to produce a truly stunning song and whilst simple, still holds a lot of weight.
The following track and first single Just Am is a wonderful mix of gleaming psychedelic synths and reverb-laden percussion; everything is shrouded under another vibrant shimmering layer, and the song fluoresces in this way across its 8 minute duration.
Footy is perhaps the most reminiscent of his work with Animal Collective, particularly his involvement on the albums Feels and Strawberry Jam and is easily the most energetic and stimulating track. A particularly dense and concentrated song, Footy is brimming with all sorts of interesting sounds, harmonies, and details, creating an ongoing sonic rush of densely packed, colourful layers. The song manages to explore many different ideas without becoming an over-saturated mess and it continues to build in this manner, eventually concluding in a plateau of continuous noise.
Dibb has managed to capture some of the feeling and charm that was missing from this year’s Animal Collective release, and succeeds where Painting With perhaps had shortcomings. Sleep Cycle needn’t have taken as long as it did, this being due largely to a lack of self-confidence – Dibb is often side-lined and overlooked when compared with his fellow Animal Collective bandmates – hopefully with the release of his debut album he’ll see more value in the music he can create and have more confidence going into the next project.
Image: Deakin 2016