Sleepmakeswaves is a band whose name suggests it excels in subtlety; for eight years running, that hasn’t been in the game plan.
I am kind of shocked to see that Sleepmakeswaves (SMW) has been around for eight years. I suppose it is yet another reminder that I am getting old. On the other hand, although this is a band that is certainly well above competent in the realm of post-rock, I never believed that the band had carved out its own sound in the genre, which must have forced me to peg them as an “up-and-coming” band for the past decade rather than one that had reached its full potential. This is surprising since Australia generally has no shortage of creative acts; This is Your Captain Speaking, Laura, Because of Ghosts, and The Dead Sea all blazed new ground in the ’00s (one of the great pastimes of the old Australian contingent of TSB was arguing the merits of Melbourne’s post-rock scene vs Sydney’s), and let us not forget older acts like Silver Ray and Dirty Three. Thus, SMW finds itself in a similar position to China’s Wang Wen: unique Love of Cartography may not be, but it is a great piece of instrumental rock.
Arguably, by moving closer to a less distinguished sound, SMW actually has created a larger audience for itself. Across its discography, the band has stayed true to many of the foundations of the genre and really harnessed an “international” sound that would easily go over well in Europe or the United States. Sure, those places already have bands producing this style of music (and if you squint just a bit you may confuse SMW for someone like Caspian, Maserati, Russian Circles, or even 65daysofstatic), but does Australia? Not as much — at least not convincingly. To take TIYCS as an example, here’s a tremendously talented band moving forward with a style of post-rock that debuted in the early ’90s and has long since been abandoned by most listeners; in other words, it’s mostly a band for critics. (What might Slint or Labradford sound like today were they still making music? Well, it’s not hard to imagine it would be filed away in the same category as TICYS.) Yet, I would expect that SMW would appeal to a much larger base, and there are apparently some people running labels in Europe who agree.
Love of Cartography is only SMW’s second album, after 2011’s ...And So We Destroyed Everything. The band continues its progression away from the more traditional post-rock elements of its first two EPs and begins planting firmer roots in post-metal and math rock, as well and continuing its explorations of electronics in its music. “One Day You Will Teach Me to Let Go of My Fears” was an early benchmark for the band, one that was also not surpassed in ASWDE. In comparison, Love of Cartography puts up three cuts worthy of being called the band’s best: “How We Built the Ocean,” “Something Like Avalanches,” and “Your Time Will Come Again,” all of which close the album. It’s in these final twenty minutes that the band truly shines, and they do nicely to frame the preceding tracks as necessary stepping points to the album’s epic finale.
From start to finish, Love of Cartography is an engaging instrumental rock album in a year that is decidedly light on such quality ventures. It seems as if most musicians these days are running off doing the “solo thing,” but Sleepmakeswaves reminds us that rock can be a powerful tool when used appropriately.