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Sleeps With the Fishes

Michael Brook & Pieter Nooten

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Album Review

It's hard to imagine this collaboration between Pieter Nooten (from Xymox) and ambient, experimental guitarist Michael Brook working any better. Sleeps With the Fishes comprises 15 excellent, moody soundscapes, given depth by Nooten's subtle vocals and instrumentation that sounds piped in from some dreamy other world. Brook's guitar rings and chimes, sounding cleaner, and his guitar work is more precise than ever. Synthesizers creep in and around the vocals and guitar to stunning effect. The album seems to define the word "mysterious." Nooten's vocals are gloomy, yet angelic as he sings about walking over clouds and worlds of unease. At times, he sounds like Martin Gore from Depeche Mode, only there's no sign of anything pop within miles. His voice is as much of an instrument as any other element in the songs; it's not important which lyrics are decipherable and which are not, as the vocals work mostly as a highlight to the mood-setting instrumentation. Some songs form out of dead silence, such as "Several Times II," which eventually layers on peaceful ambient sounds, before fading away again. An uncredited female vocalist on "Equal Ways" echoes both Lisa Gerrard and Nico, as violins, cellos, and a somber piano swirl and twirl darkly around her. "Searching" might be the album's most accessible moment; pairing gentle vocals, interesting electronic sounds (possibly courtesy of Brian Eno, and Brook's remarkably vibrant guitar, the song is a virtual manifesto, dictating the pace and themes of the remainder of the album. Sleeps With the Fishes is quite dark, but it's equally beautiful and uplifting in the same instance. Nooten and Brook are restrained in the creation of their moody aesthetic, but the songs are a delight from start to finish. It's amazing that material that's so calmly paced and atmospheric is so enjoyable. Whether a listener is playing the album as background music or paying close attention to each note or sound, there's equal reward to be found. Sleeps With the Fishes could not be a more perfect dark ambient, experimental album. It's essential listening for fans of 4AD, ambient music, minimalism, experimental electronic music, and morose themes alike. This album is an overlooked masterpiece.

Biography

Born: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The innovative guitarist and producer Michael Brook was born and raised in Toronto. While studying electronic music and the arts at the University of Toronto, he met trumpeter Jon Hassell, with whom he later toured; through Hassell, Brook also was introduced to minimalist composer LaMonte Young, under whom he studied Indian music. A period working as the house engineer at producer Daniel Lanois' famed Grant Avenue recording studio led to a tenure playing guitar with the Canadian pop band Martha &...
Full bio
Sleeps With the Fishes, Michael Brook
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