It’s a strange thing when an intro is followed by what seems to be another intro. This is Australian post rock band Sleepmakeswaves, and this is their third album. Admittedly the second intro, an instrumental called “Worlds Away” livens up to the extent that there is a gentle breeze of an atmosphere.

To begin with, the pattern of this album is so much like Isis’s “Panopticon” that in parts it is almost interchangeable. You’re not going to be threatened by this. You are more likely to be blown away in the light wind. But as a piece of easy listening with colourful patterns, this cannot be faulted. I could picture serious-looking musicians standing on stage, bowing their heads, swaying their heads and generally shunning the limelight as they let the music do the talking. It’s instrumental post rock prog, you see. Anyone going to this year’s ProgPower Europe will find out as Sleepmakeswaves are making the long trek to the Netherlands.

I was a bit tired when I first listened to this album. For that it is ideal listening as I found myself being enticed along by this gentle instrumental extravaganza. Listening to it again in a more refreshed state, there is still a bit of a feel of background music about it, which may go with the territory of instrumental works, but the album does have sophistication and character. While listening I also read about a radio station’s claim of “a masterful rise and fall of breathless riffs and breathtaking atmospheres”. Riffs and atmospheres yes, but personally I’d omit the breathtaking and breathless. I did detect subtleties and liked the discreet cosmic intervention on “Tundra”. “The Edge of Everything” had a soupçon of oomph, and took an expected turn towards an overtly complex progressive section. It’s still a meal from the same restaurant though, and whilst this may sound like some sort of condemnation, it’s not. A hypnotic tick-tick-tick accompanies lush soundscapes and expanding visions. “The Edge of Everything” paves its progressive path for ten and a half minutes. I’m not sure what everything we were on the edge of, but this is a more self-indulgent track than the preceding dreamier affairs. The gloomy piano-led title track, which followed, undoubtedly means something in the scheme of things but I didn’t really get what it was. It does open out into more cosmic spheres but it was too short to say. I had become accustomed to ten minutes of drawn out expression. After the relatively obscurity of “The Edge of Everything” and “Made of Breath Only”, “Into The Arms of Ghosts” reverts briefly to the earlier gentleness before exploding in an almost apologetic Sleepmakeswaves sense, into dark thunder. Thunder does not seem to be their way and the storm subsides to a welcome cosmic calm before returning and indeed rising to epic heights, which hitherto I had not experienced. I was ok with where I’d been before, thanks. I had got into the groove of a nice day out by the river, and was quite happy to be swept along by the calming sounds. It seems that Sleepmakeswaves had decided to take us into troubled waters. I’m not sure of the purpose of that. “Midnight Sun’s” post metal ring provides peace but by now the band felt the need to input a darker edge to create the crescendo. It’s a nice free-flowing track though with an attractive groove line. The sonic waves of “Glacial” would have been a good enhancement earlier on, but belatedly they now merged well into a dark and dreamy interlude. The threat of the heavier end of Sleepmakeswaves hangs over “Hailstones” but the grey clouds blew over, leaving it with a haunting air and ending the album on a pleasant note.

At times the music could send you into hypnosis or even to sleep, but in a nice way. During the course of the album Sleepmakeswaves step up their game in the convention of post rock, but whilst the musicianship is always of a high technical quality, the dark clouds spoil the relaxing day out without adding anything. I guess that exponents of this genre feel the need to rise to the occasion with big moments, but it would have been nice if Sleepmakeswaves had veered from the convention a bit. I felt that the band could have been more adventurous and developed their mellower side, a clear strength for me. I really liked the freedom, which large parts of this album conveyed, and I quite liked “Made of Breath Only” as a whole but felt that it could be more contrived than organic, and for that reason it didn’t engage me as much as it promised to do.

(7/10 Andrew Doherty)