Since the groups self-titled debut in 2005, Team Sleep have only occasionally reunited for touring and recording demo’s, leaving fans in eager anticipation for new material. In 2014 however, Team Sleep re-entered the studio to record their first official release in just under a decade ‘Woodstock Sessions Vol. 4’.
One of the most endearing qualities about Team Sleep’s latest release is that it is an amalgamation of both live audience attended performances and recorded studio tracks. This quality offers an inherent sense of uniqueness that may not have been achievable from a typical studio album where every note is nuanced, inimitable and reflective of a spontaneous instant in time that has been shared between both artist and fan.
Album opener ‘Your Skull Is Red’ is the first of the rereleased tracks evident on the ‘Woodstock Sessions’. It floats gracefully amidst a sea of dream like vocals and chiming come distorted guitar, lending to Team Sleep’s massive panoramic sound. The song to and fro’s between mellow and indulgent cacophony that is typical of the atmospheric dynamics of post rock. Chino Moreno, who many of us may recognise from his full time band Deftones, offers a much more relaxed and downbeat style of vocalisation in comparison to his usually aggressive and upfront panache. Right off the bat the laid-back style and almost garage band sounding quality of Team Sleep’s music provide an undeniable charm and sense of integrity that is suggestive of a back to basics and stripped back mentality.
This sincerity can be further observed through the albums often impromptu and improvised live nature. In new track ‘Formant’, reverberant guitar soars above a steady backbeat and rhythm section, painting a myriad of emotive imageries through the deliberated placement of notation. Although not to be considered as technical improvisation by any means, the simplicity instigates both an atmospheric and transient characteristic to the track, evidencing the age old saying ‘less is more’.
With such avid musicianship amongst a diverse array of musicians, it is hardly surprising that Team Sleep achieve a sonic versatility that quickly becomes their crowning facet, transcending their often assumed post rock roots. Although Team Sleep may superficially fall into the category of post rock or experimental rock, they are renowned for their ability to be elusive in the very definition of their own music. Drifting between dream pop and ambient rock ‘Ever (Foreign Flag)’ features evocatively beautiful vocals that rise and fall over glistening chords that evolve into interesting and fluid progressions that wouldn’t sound amiss on a prog rock album. Sharply contrasting with this, ‘O.P’ is reminiscent of a Black Sabbath-esque frolic with its heavily distorted guitars ringing indefinitely against thundering drums, once again shattering any illusion of conformity. The song perfectly encapsulates the energy and volatility that we have come to expect from the Sacramento giants. This then, is one of the other wonders of Team Sleep’s experimental tendencies allow. Their sound is an exciting array of various genres packaged into one unit of musicians, reflecting Team Sleep’s commendable ability to transcend any one definable sound.
Rereleasing music may often be seen as indulgent or as a self-infatuation on the part of the artist, but in this scenario it becomes blatantly apparent that this album is a celebration of a sound that has brought both fans and musicians together for over a decade. One of said tracks
‘Blvd Nights’ retains the same amount of energy vigour and relevance as it did on the 2005 release. It is arguably one of Team Sleep’s biggest sounding tracks through its rapid transitions in both dynamics and texture. The track gradually builds from blissful and tranquil beginnings into a monumental wall of noise characterised by droning guitars, ground shaking bass and earth shattering percussion. Its composition seems comparatively more structured and regimented than previous tracks ultimately providing for a more a mainstream sounding track. Its dream pop sensibility render it as one of the more melodically focused songs on the album, adorned with an abundance of memorable hooks and vocal riffs. It is here that Team Sleep are most accessible and reveal their mainstream potential, furthermore reminding us of the capabilities of the group.
With reworkings of previous favourites, as well as new releases, Team Sleep have created a monster of an album that effectively re-establishes them as the masters of their own field. With a nine year absence it is hard to pin point when exactly the next Team Sleep album is going to be, but from this release it is blatantly obvious that whenever it is, we can expect big things.
‘Woodstock Sessions Vol. 4’ is out now.