Jasper TX: Black Sleep

The fifth full-length release from Dag Rosenqvist (aka Jasper TX), Black Sleep is an oft-disturbing dreamscape that may be the Swedish producer's most powerful and fully-realized collection to date. As with much of his past output, the material is heavily guitar-based (apparently piano and synthesizers were used as well)—though you'd hardly know it when the instrument's sounds are altered so extensively they sound like anything but a six-string. Though split into six sections, the material presents itself in an uninterrupted fifty-two-minute flow that ultimately registers as an episodic travelogue of varying stylistic character.

The oppressively dark opening part opens with a blurry drone that seems to rise from some subterranean tomb, after which ghostly moans softly howl from within the hazy mass; parts two and five perpetuate the mood with rumbling, micro-sound drones that can't help but call to mind Deathprod. Rosenqvist distances himself from that association in the fifth part, however, by introducing electric guitar shadings and textural flickers midway through. Though it's tempting to characterize Black Sleep as bleak and funereal, such a description underacknowledges its occasional “lighter” side. The 6/8 guitar and keyboard melodies in the third part in particular are not only peaceful but downright pretty and any thought of a nightmare seems a million miles away during the section's lulling unfurl.

Understandably, the nineteen-minute closing part is the most ear-catching, and not just because of its length. It begins with jagged shards of guitar-generated micro-edits which are swallowed within a tinkling mass that swells rapidly to a violent and cacophonous roar. Things thankfully calm down thereafter and the music settles into a spectral drone Rosenqvist seemingly litters with various field noises that give the material a real-world evocativeness it would otherwise lack. A shroud of gloom sets in as low tones stretch across one another and ultimately come together to form a pitch black mass that slowly recedes. Supplanting that mass is, unexpectedly, a gentle piano coda that's so lovely it feels positively hymnal—an beautiful end to a wide-ranging journey that's never anything less than picturesque.

September 2008