Album Reviews

Arms and Sleepers : Matador

by Mike GutierrezJanuary 7, 2010
7.1Expect Candy
2009 

Arms and Sleepers : Matador On Matador (no relation to the label), Arms and Sleepers combine live sounds and samples to craft lush dreamscapes of Portishead-like eeriness and ambient beauty.  Don’t listen to this album while driving at night – you’ll likely veer into oncoming traffic.  Otherwise, go ahead and let the waves of trance and transcendence wash over you.

The key to trance has always been the drums.  Pianos, synths, and the occasional melodica provide the melodies on Matador, but the drums keep the ear invested.  Arms and Sleepers has a knack for blending the ‘crunch’ of live drums with the ‘click’ of electronic beats.  The result is a digital/analog hybrid, especially effective on "Kino" and "Simone", boasting all the physical warmth of real percussion along with the precision of coded beats (making a nice ‘cushion’ to rest your head on while samples and synths fly above your dreaming mind).

Collaboration was a significant part of Matador.  Notable invites include Philip Caspian of Caspian (QRO interview), as well as Ben Shepard and Catherine Worsham of Uzi & Ari.  The latter pair combine for a vocal duet on "Architekt" that might be the star of the album.  Arms and Sleepers is less about pop hooks and more about the gradual layering of sonic textures, but you’ll be hard-pressed to forget the simple and seductive piano motif on "Architekt" anytime soon.

The album ends with "Orly", a quiet minute-long benediction that moves past you softly, briefly.  Like a ship passing in the fog, or like that floating plastic bag from American Beauty.  It’s a good metaphor for Matador in general.  Arms and Sleepers ask you to stop, slow down, and pay attention to the moment.  The repetition of trance is designed to hold onto that moment long enough for you to realize you don’t want it to depart.  Then it slowly withdraws, and you are alone.