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The Comsat Angels: Sleep No More

Album Notes

Sleep No More, the second Comsat Angels album, is a confident follow-up that contains a tighter and more cutting version of Waiting for a Miracle's alluring insularity. Going by "Eye Dance," the torrid opener, one might expect a more aggressive affair, but that's not necessarily the case. The album turns out to be neither as pop nor as fast, with a majority of the material playing out at a dirge-like pace. There were no singles. Like Magazine's Secondhand Daylight, or the Sound's All Fall Down, Sleep No More can be a trudge and quite bleak, perhaps even impenetrable at times. However, as with Waiting for a Miracle, the dynamics of the album become increasingly perceptible with each play, and the slowest, austerest passages begin to seem as intense as the few that slam and punch. With the exception of "Restless," a mood piece of harmonic flickers, light whispers, and low throb, the album is driven by Mik Glaisher's booming drums, which were recorded in a manner -- near a lift shaft, to be precise, with microphones placed on six surrounding floors -- that makes the album wholly enveloping and, occasionally, imposing. (Imagine Joy Division's "I Remember Nothing" and Talking Heads' "The Overload" on top of one another, doubled in heaviness.) The subject matter: not a big surprise, given the title of the album, with further adventures in malfunctioning-relationship purgatory, along with topical matter like "Dark Parade" (about the volatile hostage situation at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran), a song that hardly repeals the level of turmoil expressed elsewhere. Regardless of the continued strength in the songwriting, it's impossible not to get caught up in the album's sounds. The title track overwhelms with its swirling layers of guitar and keyboards over an unchanging drum pattern. The storming "Goat of the West" wastes no time in whipping itself into a controlled frenzy of churning guitars, punishing drums, and bewildered vocals ("Did you see what happened?/It's so funny that I'm not laughing"). On "At Sea," the rhythm section does the riffing, with Glaisher's thumping drums suctioned to Kevin Bacon's cavernous bass. While it's not as easy to enjoy as Waiting for a Miracle -- for a lot of listeners, it's that kind of album that requires some mental preparation -- Sleep No More is certainly more powerful, and it's also a greater achievement. Here, the Comsat Angels became one of the era's most exceptional bands. ~ Andy Kellman


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