Sleeps In Oysters: We kept the memories locked away like the beetles of our childhood, or How to appreciate someone who's always around.
Seed Records

Certainly one of the upsides to the digital download era is the extra effort currently being put into physical releases, the idea being that doing so will retain the listener's interest in the physical product. Consequently, exceptional investments of energy and imagination are being put into the design and presentation of a given release to ensure that the consumer will deem it distinctive enough to warrant purchase and perhaps even trump the digital download choice. An obvious case in point is Sleeps In Oysters' (take a breath) We kept the memories locked away like the beetles of our childhood, or How to appreciate someone who's always around which pushes the concept of presentation to an extreme degree. Available in only 250 copies, the group's debut mini-album on Seed Records arrives with its CD inserted inside a wax-sealed brown paper sleeve and five postcards within another brown sleeve (photos of insects crawling over a woman's face and legs, and a veritable tree trunk of worm-like insects pouring from her mouth), both of which are housed in hand-made, embroidered fabric sleeves replete with buttons to hold it all together.

It's an arresting presentation for a mini-album's worth of tunes that are just as arresting. Reminiscent in some respects of Múm and Tunng, Sleeps In Oysters tills similar ground by sprinkling all manner of odd noises and electronic sparkle over whimsical songs. Representative of the group's sound, “Moths' wings for Lisa” layers a lovely female vocal melody (“So would you ride in and patch me up / I know I've asked a lot already / But I'll make it up to you I swear”) over rickety beats, tinkling glockenspiels, and voice samples. As its title indicates, the closer “Moths' wings for John” reprises the opener but transports it to the center of a forest filled with incessant cricket chatter, slows the tempo, and re-fashions it into a dream-like lullaby. In some cases, the group flirts with a more accessible style of electronic pop without compromising its idiosyncratic character. Anchored by the whirr and click of combustible breakbeat fireworks and a needling, two-toned synth motif, “My heart, a hive for bees” moves the group's sound a tad closer to conventional electronica though the off-kilter vocal melody (subjected to subtle shredding) certainly subverts any claim to normalcy the tune might entertain. With its doubled male-female vocal line, “No time like the spiders, Part 2” even seems to be structured along conventional verse-chorus grounds but the dizzying surplus of noise textures that drench the phantasmagoric setting ensures it'll remain a Top 40 long-shot. A more collage-styled approach in “No time like the spiders, Part 1: Where do you go to my lovely?” weaves toy piano, thumb piano, cryptic female singing, and samples of an elderly English woman's voice into a woozy, decrepit whole. Sleeps In Oysters excels at creating electronic pop that's been shattered into pieces and then screwed back together using glue, tape, screws, and bolts, with all of it served up with infectious energy and child-like glee.

December 2008