Ateleia: Formal Sleep
Table of the Elements

Formal Sleep, the second Ateleia full length from Brooklyn resident James Elliott, advances upon his Swimming Against the Moments debut in subtle yet significant ways. As accomplished as the debut is, the follow-up presents a more mature vision and a broader range of stylistic contrasts, with tracks ranging between contemplative soundscapes and settings so propulsive they verge on techno, albeit of an obviously abstract kind. Elliott shapes his material using a modicum of instrumentation (bass guitar, guitar, synthesizer, computer), indicating that the music's power stems from its compositional than sound design. Only one piece is average: “Brine, Coming to Rest,” a slowly morphing, rippling drone, is immersive but par for the genre course. Considerably more sonically distinctive is “A Doubtful Shore” whose steely pulses and spindly techno patterns prove hypnotically lulling; similarly insistent is “Salt Horse Sculpture” whose dense mass of crackle and flutter segues into a percolating skip of tinkling bells and murmuring organ tones. Ateleia's epic style is effectively exemplified by the swirling, oceanic undertow in “Of Isthmus” and, abetted by David Grubbs' harmonium playing, the ethereal “Formal Barrier.” The best and perhaps most ambitious piece is the glorious closer, “Bridget Riley,” which opens as a vibrant wonderland of shimmering textures, moves into a brief episode of shuddering guitars, and finally sails out on a beautiful, melodica-kissed wave. Here and elsewhere, one easily succumbs to the psychedelic pull of Formal Sleep's hallucinogenic charms.

January 2007