Review: White Sleep – ‘Nocturnus 1’ (electro/ambient)

Coming to us today is the electronic act, White Sleep from North Carolina. That we know for certain. However, I was not certain where to begin this review after hearing the album because it straddles the fence between familiar and unchartered. I try to do reviews mostly without the context of what the artist says the album is “about”. But in this case, I had to and I’m glad I did.

White Sleep notes the following: “

“The five-track EP, inspired by cold war era history, geopolitics, and intense cinematic sequences, continues the North Carolina-based artist’s exploration into the boundaries of genre. White Sleeps’ adept ability to glide between glistening ambient and deep industrial techno is on full display.”

Key phrase...”exploration into the boundaries of genre.”

The five-track release is perhaps best understood at least sonically when listening to the first and fifth track first followed by the three middle tracks. Track 1, “Unorthodox” and track 5, “Night Raid I” are almost like bookends. Track 1 in and of itself, starts with some of the most metallic, subterranean drone sounds I’ve heard in a while. The listener is moved along the path of the exploration with the pulse of a steady techno beat. The ambience changes a bit indicting different stops during the trip. And we know we’re in for an interesting one. But let’s fast forward to track 5 for the moment.

Track 5 again starts out with a low drone but then the listener is hit with a faster hard techno beat over the ambient planes. And this time the trip is more rushed and you can feel the left and right pans of noises like you’re in the middle of a ride with the sounds on both sides of you. It also helps with some of the experimental sounds weaving in and out on a lower sound plane. Before we know it, we’ve reached the end with a quick drop off of the drone sounds.

The other tracks are vastly different from tracks 1 and 4. Track 2, “Panus Lecomtei” is somewhere between a minimalist world/tribal vibe and pleasant ambient tones that rise to the forefront of the track above the beat. Track 3, “Adriatic Sea” has a similar beat that we hear in the first and fifth tracks. But the vibe here is certainly more ominous or foreboding even. Where are we going? Not sure but it will be interesting. Perhaps we’re hearing the soundtrack to a movie or nightmare we didn’t realize we were in.

Track 4, “Solar Flare” is by far, the most intriguing. Here we hear a repetitive noise weaving in and out above us like some kind of signal noise. What’s interesting in this track is how, beneath the signal and above the slow beat, the artist weaves this tasteful use of slow-rolling noise; disruptive at times but done well. It’s like a slow moving tide that suddenly changes and recedes.

This EP is intriguing. There’s no doubt about that. White Sleep is taking us places where we’re not sure where we are going. Some artists paint pictures that makes it easy for our imaginations to see to a degree. White Sleep is not one of those artists. ‘Nocturnus I’ is an EP where we feel like we’re part of the artist’s journey but perhaps the ending of which, we won’t know until the trilogy of EPs are complete. But maybe that’s the point? It creates anticipation for ‘Nocturnus II’ which I’m sure will be interesting.

For fans of ambient, slow techno, drone, dark ambient and new age. Definitely worth checking out.

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