Jasper TX - Black Sleep

Owain Paciuszko 23/06/2008

Rating: 4/5

This album was conceived as one track, and is divided into six-parts purely from a point of convenience; much like film-director David Lynch despises the notion of a film being divided into chapters. I make the comparison between TX and Lynch to suggest a similarity in the 'immediacy' of what is created here, this is - as the title suggests - very dark, strange and at times almost impenetrable music. Long ambient howls of guitar surge in and out creating an instant atmosphere of unease, with the same atonal intensity as Jonny Greenwood's astounding soundtrack to 'There Will Be Blood' did, except with this your imagination cannot fall back into the image of Daniel Day Lewis caked in oil. Here your mind is left to wander in the sound and at times it's uncomfortable listening.

New sounds and arrangments slip in and out with the expert timing of a composer who knows when enough is enough; TX's gift is to hold your interest with the stark precision of a contemporary symphony whilst blurring the line between classical music and a more modern 'pop' record, akin to bands such as Sigur Ros or Mogwai. It is unlikely that anyone could put this on and by the end of the first track proclaim this as 'brilliant', it is more of an experience than most records would usually be brave enough to demand of a listener, but at the same time it is often inaccessible to the point where one wonders who - except the masochistic - would put this on for a second listen. That's not to say this is a bad record, it is just a difficult record, and at times you wonder if the actual effort involved in listening to it is worth repeating. Thus it is hard to judge on first hearing exactly what you feel, it is undoubtedly a highly evocative piece; Black Sleep Part II lulls forward extremely slowly from a barely audible hum to a distorted sound like raindrops falling on a tent, and it is oddly compelling and quite beautiful, but you're not exactly going to get in and think 'Yes, I want to listen to that weird raindrops track!'

I would suggest that this record be something one listens to in order to provoke dreams, or perhaps at the end of the evening, but there is a darkness inherent in the music here that makes me worry about (a) what dreams may come and (b) what kind of evening you'd have in which you'd want to finale with this! In a way listening to this is almost like dreaming, it is a lucid and slow-paced recording that at times focuses and - at others - blurs the mind. It segues quietly and mysteriously into subtle shifts of style, being oddly uplifting at moments before sucking you down again into an ambient black hole. This is the true strength of the album, and the reason it is worth persevering with, that it is worth listening to again - being bold enough to 'try it on' in different situations and see what it does. It's music that provokes in a different way to how other albums often do.

Release date: 19/06/08