Sleeper: From Beyond
A Guide to Saints

Though the title From Beyond certainly captures the ethereal spirit of C.J. Parahi's Sleeper debut album, From Below would have worked just as well, given the release's submersive, at times aquatic character. Its electronic-ambient music sounds at times as if it's emanating from the ocean's murkiest depths, waterlogged perhaps yet still retaining some semblance of definition. Though it's issued on Lawrence English's Room 40 sub-label, A Guide to Saints, From Beyond also would have been a natural candidate for release on Cooper Cult, the label Parahi curates and co-runs with Alicia Merz (aka Birds of Passage). Issued in cassette and digital formats, the recording is tailor-made for a cassette presentation (vinyl too), given that its thirty-three minutes split into two uninterrupted halves, the first a seventeen-minute side featuring the tracks “Slumber” and “Timeless Time” and the second a side of similar length comprised of “Edge of Darkness” and “Creeper.”

The orchestral sounds with which the recording begins possess a natural acoustic timbre, but almost immediately the definition of the elements grows blurry and continues to do so the further on into the track we go; by the time the ten-minute mark of the opening piece has been reached, the initially dominant musical elements now find themselves almost wholly transformed into unearthly reverberations (there's also an interesting symmetricality to From Beyond, as the final seconds witness a transition from the blurry sounds into a concluding set of clear horn-based expressions). As such a mutation occurs, one might be reminded of Gavin Bryars' The Sinking of the Titanic and William Basinski's Disintegration Loops, given the way their respective whorls of sound slowly deteriorate.

By way of analogy, imagine someone on board a ship and recording a band playing on deck when suddenly the person plunges overboard, the still-operational recording equipment in tow—From Beyond's opening minutes would resemble the eventual playback of the device's recording. Or perhaps another way of putting it is to imagine someone listening to music whilst lying in bed in a darkened room and, as the person slowly drifts into sleep, the music, still playing, seeping into the person's unconscious and becoming progressively hazier. In such a case, the music assumes a ghost-like character, its sounds reverberating below the conscious level like some audio apparition. It is in this buried realm where Parahi's spectral transmissions, which the New Zealand-based alchemist assembled using heavily processed field recordings, samples, and found sounds, most naturally reside.

November 2013