Invisible Elephant is the recording project of an artist from Blackpool here in the UK. He uses vocals, guitars, percussion and environmental sounds to create everything from hushed ethereal soundscapes to monolithic walls of feedback. Sleepwalking is Invisible Elephant’s third release, following The Lights Go Out (released in 2010 on Sonic Reverie Records) and Anomie or Swimming in a Black Sea (released 2011 on Two Hands Music). The album sees him try to capture the feeling of dissociation he experienced during a period of disturbed sleep in late 2013. Here he describes his inspiration:
“I’d eventually drift off (i think) but i wasn’t sure if i’d gone to sleep or not. i’d hallucinate and see spiders dangling over the bed and ants crawling over me and then wake up, do my normal just-woken-up things and then wake up for real. if not spiders and ants it would be drowning, being dragged under the waves and unable to pull myself up. it wasn’t actually sleepwalking as far as i can remember but it was a strange time and that all filtered through to make the record.”
The album opens with ‘drift’, which itself begins with a gentle acoustic guitar over some ambient recordings, before eventually spiking in several bursts of post-rock-style guitar. ‘from the bottom of a well’ is a Grouper-esque drone-pop track, with gloomy guitars and a shimmering, dream-like atmosphere, accentuated by guest vocals from Maryliz Guillemi of Twin Limb. The track was inspired by a recurring theme/event in Haruki Murakami’s novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, in which the main character, after the sudden departure of his wife, descends into a dry well in search of solitude, and experiences a series of bizarre events which may or may not be dreams. The lyrics are a clear nod to the novel, “i tried to find a place the rope won’t reach, all this time i fell it’s chasing me, all i could do was miss you for all this time”. I’m a sucker for literary songwriting, and this is no exception. It works very well and provides a striking parallel to the artist’s own surreal dream confusion.
‘Slow Wave’ could be described as “underwater-drone”, the distorted vocals sounding as if they’re bubbling up from the depths, and ‘Never There’ builds into a buzz of feedback and post-rock percussion. The final track, ‘Two Moons’ is also a reference to Murakami, this time his novel IQ84, in which a small, misshapen, moss-coloured moon hangs in the sky, right beside the regular moon. Without spoiling the books, the song proves a rather fitting soundtrack to the final scene. Guillemi returns lends her vocal talents to a track that is robably the most straightforward “folk” song on the album. I think that the opening lyrics sums the feel of the album up pretty nicely, “i wish i could tell if I’m asleep or i’m awake”.
You can buy Sleepwalking right now via the Invisible Elephant bandcamp page. It is available either as a digital download or on a really nice purple cassette tape. Be aware that the tapes are limited so grab one now if you fancy it.
P.S. Invisible Elephant also contributed a track to the excellent Mini50 Records’s Winter Sampler. It’s definitely worth checking out.