Deakin breaks away with ‘Sleep Cycle’
Brian Boylen | Tuesday, April 12, 2016
For every unique and innovative project successfully funded by crowdsourcing websites such as Kickstarter, there are many more failures. Perhaps it is due to the stress of deadlines or lofty expectations from donating fans that leads to many of these ventures being released half finished — or never. For seven years, Animal Collective fans have waited with bated breath for the debut solo project by long time band member Deakin, who appeared to be another tragic victim of this Kickstarter syndrome. In 2009, he started a Kickstarter in order to fund a concert in Africa and a CD of his first work as a solo artist. In a 2012 interview with Pitchfork, Deakin revealed that he realized all of the money was unnecessary, and instead opted to donate it all to the Mali charity known as TEMEDT. Deakin ultimately self-funded the project, which resulted in “Sleep Cycle,” a six-song, 33 minute album that reminded listeners everywhere that good things come to those who wait.
No one wants to wait seven years for an album, but when the result is as masterful as “Sleep Cycle,” it is hard to be too upset. Minutes into the opening track “Golden Chords,” the album evokes a familiar feeling of Animal Collective records of yore, and yet refreshing and unique. The track begins with ambient sounds of nature; the low croaking of distant frogs is slowly replaced by a simple yet powerful guitar strumming that persists throughout the song. Deakin reveals his voice about a minute into the track, a rare sound as singing is typically handled by bandmates Avey Tare and Panda Bear on the vast majority of Animal Collective songs. His ever so slightly distorted vocals give the impression that he is speaking from just beneath the surface of water; you can understand him, but he lacks clarity. This effect pairs well with his ambiguous and unsure lyrics, such as “Days fog / Can’t see past the edge of what’s gone but I’m hoping I’ll try.”
Deakin double downs on this musical fog on the second track “Just Am,” an eight-minute journey that relies on a flowing rhythm to keep hold of the listener’s attention. There are no immediate payoffs in this album — no catchy and repeatable hooks. “Sleep Cycle” is not an album that will leave these little memorable snippets of songs stuck in your head all day. That is not to say it is not addicting in its own way. It imparts more of a longing, a deeper desire to return to its ethereal world of swirling melodies.
“Sleep Cycle” is not for everyone. While it may seem downright mainstream compared to some of Animal Collective’s more esoteric releases such as the highly cluttered and abrasive “Centipede Hz,” the album is still firmly rooted in the experimental. This is demonstrated best in the track “Footy,” a song like nothing I have heard before. The percussive backbone of the track hits with the force of a crashing wave — retreats for a brief moment — and then comes hurtling down again. The combination between the strange musical composition of “Footy” and Deakin’s wailing vocals results in a unique, and yes, weird, auditory experience. After having listened to it several times, I still honestly can’t tell if “Footy” is my favorite or least favorite track off the album.
As a whole, the album “Sleep Cycle” stands as a triumphant rebuttal to any claims that Deakin is a weak link within Animal Collective. I look forward to the ideas he will bring to the table when he (hopefully) rejoins them for their next album.