Made Of Breath Only
"If you haven’t noticed, we here at KYS have been making a big deal out of how much we bloody love post-rock lately, and for proof of why it’s worth paying attention to again, one need look no further than Sydney lads, sleepmakeswaves.
For the better part of a decade, sleepmakeswaves have been a band with the odds stacked highly against them. The mid-2000’s was a time where post-rock was basically dead, heavy metal was your dad and his friends and the use of reverb resulted in harsh accusations of one merely ripping off My Bloody Valentine. Despite the lack of appetite in the public arena, the band toiled away in our nation’s DIY venues of old and new; steadily graduating through the venue ranks from the Exter Hotel and RAD Bar to the Hi-Fi and the Corner Hotel. The potential that was so evident within this band well and truly exploded in the public eye on 2014’s sophomore, ‘Love Of Cartography‘. The album’s rich musical textures and tone colours resulted in one of the most uplifting, dynamic Australian heavy releases of the entire decade.
With so much under their belt since their last record, scoring a Triple J debut for their latest single ‘Tundra‘ was the perfect start of their latest album campaign – the dark, heavy and arctic-themed epic, ‘Made Of Breath Only‘.
Yet the questions remained in our minds – could the band produce another instrumental effort that avoided the repetition, sameness and lag that has plagued so many bands in their field and deliver another piece of work as unique and engaging as the last?
Yes, yes, they most certainly can!
‘Our Days Were Polar provides a dark introduction to the record, immediately establishing a sense of eerie isolation using synths and eerie sound effects. A distant drum beat heralds the beginning of the album’s intro song, rising to a steady crescendo before landing straight into the thunderous soundscape of ‘Worlds Away‘. Put simply, this is the stronger album opener that the band has produced to date. After the initial bombastic nature of this opening, the song settles into a steady groove with drummer Tim Adderly and bassist Alex Wilson pedalling song along at a steady pace. And true to SMW form, the song fluctuates between crushing, distorted guitars and lush, tender passages of ethereal beauty, setting the bar exceedingly high for what’s to come – which meets that bar every step of the way.
Apart from incredible dynamic control the band displays, they also have a knack for writing well-condensed songs that take listeners on a wondrous musical journey without ever once overstaying their welcome. ‘To light and Then Return‘ contrasts two themes, one darkly heavy and one slightly optimistic, and weaves the two together in a four-and-a-half-minute rollercoaster. Elsewhere, the beautiful piano-led title track plays the part of the album’s emotional crux and tear-jerker with sentimental melodies and light sprinkles of guitar painting a canvass of beauty and bleakness in the one frame.
What’s also apparent on this outing is the emphasis on the heavier element of the band’s sound. Old cuts like ‘Stars Are Stigmata‘ and ‘In Limbs And Joints‘ are bulked up by some pretty beefy riffs, but I guarantee that you haven’t heard anything like the main riff of ‘Into The Arms Of Ghosts‘ in a long time.
‘Glacial’ procrastinates a bit at the start but then enters sludge territory almost without warming, whilst album closer ‘Hailstones’ takes a leaf out of the book of ‘Worlds Away’, combining a mixture of quiet, haunting passages with pulverising rhythms and sounds in a nine-minute epic that will make driving through a summer storm so much more exciting.
However, it just wouldn’t do the album justice to review it and not talk about ‘The Edge Of Everything’, the ten-minute magnum opus of this grand album.
It might sound like overkill, but when coupled with previous epics ‘…And So We Destroyed Everything’ and ‘Something Like Avalanches’, you would have three songs which could each perfectly define this band. Opening with an array of effects and acoustic guitars, the song progresses seamlessly into a triumphant gallop that will serve as the perfect pick-me-up for any dreary workday. From there the song serves as a masterclass in progressive songwriting, showcasing the full creative capability of a band that is clearly at their very peak. From tender, lonely moments of pure arctic-like isolation to musical passages as heavy and powerful as a raging blizzard, this song – this audible conclusion – captures everything sleepmakeswaves are attempting and achieving on this record, and it works beautifully!
As the final, reflective chords of ‘Hailstones’ fade into obscurity, one is left dumbfounded at the vivid imagery that the band have managed to capture on ‘Made Of Breath Only‘. For a band with no lyrics, the pictures of dry tundras and icy plains conjured by this group are both vivid and lifelike, set to a musical score that is both brutal and beautiful.
Finally, I suppose that the only thing I can fault this record on is the fact that the title track just wasn’t long enough – it’s just that enjoyable!
‘Made Of Breath Only’ is a truly thrilling musical adventure. It seamlessly combining crushing bleakness with uplifting beauty, and overall, is an album that’s a spectacularly dynamic journey that’s sure to evoke the imaginations of any who brave it. We’ve known that sleepmakeswaves have been more than worth listening to for the past few years, but this album should solidify why the uniformed need this record in their lives. Heaven knows how they could possibly top this, though…" - Kill Your Stereo