An Interview With SLEEP’S SISTER (dark ambient)

SLEEP’s SISTER is a project out of Israel and is characterized as “depression sleep-induced melodies captured in December 2019 on Bitcrushed pianos and field-sampled church organ, fleshed out with deconstructed instrument tracks from a stillborn doom metal project.”  The project is led by lad Shusterman of Cruel Wonders and Ghost Bike.  We’d like to thank him for the interview. 

Hello and thanks for the interview. Can you talk a little bit about the beginning’s of Sleep’s Sister and the meaning behind the name?

Sleep’s Sister is a new project for me, one I contemplated for years yet executed over just a couple of months in late 2019. The name is taken from The Blue Bird by Maurice Maeterlinck, a strange and sickly imaginative turn-of-the-century symbolist play that both deeply moved and scared me to death as a child. In the play, Sleep’s sister (la
sœur du Sommeil) is a euphemism for Death – introduced thus by Queen Night to her human visitors, “because her name is not pleasant to hear”.

You have called your writing style, “funeral ambient.” Where do you think this term started and what artists inspired this direction?

I’m a huge fan of Burial a.k.a William Bevan and the otherworldly, sorrowful quality he somehow manages to lend to the most common samples and most banal tropes of dance music. My “what if” for this project was: What if Burial grew up on funeral doom and black metal instead of drum n’bass and UK techno? What would typical extreme metal ideas sound like on broken pianos and pipe organs, with skeletal drums and guitars providing just textural washes and ambience?  I myself grew up on goth rock and darkwave, and always wanted to create something in the vein of my favorite ethereal goth band Black Tape Forb A Blue Girl – based on piano and strings, vaguely neoclassical, just maybe a bit darker and with an obvious metal influence. And a bit of Ligeti and Schnittke.

On your Bandcamp page, you mention, “Depression sleep-induced melodies captured in December 2019 on Bitcrushed pianos and field-sampled church organ, fleshed out with deconstructed instrument tracks from a stillborn doom metal project.” Can you talk a little more about this please?

Struggling with depression for as long as I can remember, a curse and a blessing is that sometimes it just fucks with my sleep. Melodies and motifs just spring up suddenly and half-wake you up, and then you have to decide whether the raw tune your inflamed brain just whispered in your ear is worth getting up to the computer in the middle of a chilly night. So I just gathered twelve tunes that were worth it. I also had a bunch of useless guitar, bass, and drum tracks I recorded a couple years ago for an unrelated metal project I had to set aside for personal reasons. Once I had the basic piano melodies laid down I started to manipulate the old instrument tracks with various effects and processing techniques to fit the texture, rhythm and mood of the new pieces.

What other projects are you involved with?

My main venture Ghost Bike is turning 10 year old this coming May. It’s an amalgam of every kind of music I love, from post-rock to worldbeat to shoegaze to techno, and it used to get quite an ecstatic press in its heyday around 2012-13. I released its’ 4th full-length
independently last year. My other long-running project is Cruel Wonders, with Tamar Singer of Zeresh fame, sort of romantic neofolk inspired by classical poetry. I also released an atmospheric black metal track under the name White Mourning on a popular 2019 compilation by a Minneapolis-based collective Red Nebula.

The new release is A Vigil of Stars. Does this revolve around a central theme or are the individual tracks basically stories within themselves?

It’s a rather loose gallery of short tone poems, tied by common texture and mood. A soundtrack to a lonely walk on a starry night in late autumn, I guess, with all the evocative imagery.

I’d like to know more about your creative process. Other than moods, what inspires your creative output? Different seasons perhaps? How do your tracks start and what sort of equipment do you use?

Books, mostly. I’m an obsessive reader and a literary translator as well. Most of the titles are direct quotes and allusions to various works of literature, others are just mood-setters. Each is meant to evoke a certain scene or just some scenery, hopefully. Each
started with a single piano line or organ progression, to which I then added time-stretched drums and guitar atmosphere. My studio setup is completely digital, just a few guitars and a MIDI keyboard ran into software synths, amp sims and various VST plugins.

What kind of field recordings did you use for this?

The organ tones were recorded and multi-sampled in various churches during my trips to France and Sweden, as well as most of the nature sounds. The bells and chromatics, along with the voices, are mostly from the streets of my hometown Jerusalem.

What other plans do you have for 2020? New music perhaps?

New Cruel Wonders release, probably. As we’re in a near total lockdown here in Israel, my most daring plans right now are to hug my wife and my parents, all of which live in another city. And then just get some sun on the beach and catch up on all the gigs that
were cancelled.

How do you think the current situation with the world pandemic has affected your desire to do music?

Tamar and I are trying to use the self-isolation to finish our second Cruel Wonders full-length. We’ve been working on it for a couple of years already, mostly long-distance, so in this case the lockdown is not that critical. I’m toying with some rough ideas for the next Sleep’s Sister release, few more months like this and there might be another album.

Thanks very much for your time. These last words are yours.

Thank you for the support and a great interview! Keep safe and healthy, hope this will be over soon and at the very least we’ll get some great music out of these strange times, if anything.

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