Lincoln has experienced an incredibly hot summer this year. People often talk of “cabin fever” like it’s a winter-only phenomena, but for those of us who find any temperature over 85 stifling, it’s possible to go batty from being cooped up inside too much while the mercury consistently reaches triple digits. As such, listening to Sleep Experiments’ Flight Takes Thought EP has been a blessing and a curse. The trio consistently conjures up autumn’s chillier climes with their delicate take on ambient dreampop and slowcore (think Low, Ida, Au Revoir Borealis, and especially the late, great Velour 100), and every time I give it a listen, I can barely contain my excitement at the thought of jacket weather in the Star City.
On tracks like “Seasons Change” and “Raven Conductor”, Phil Jacoby and Phil Johnson’s guitars arc high overhead like clouds skirting across a deep blue September sky, while their voices harmonize with Morgan Stewart’s airy-yet-earthy voice. The lyrics are simple, but it’s the effect of their harmonies that is most important: wistful, longing, nostalgic, and melancholy but never melodramatic or saccharine.
Then there’s the trio’s stripped down approach to their music. Yes, the EP’s songs are quite atmospheric, with the almost complete lack of percussion only further encouraging the songs to bliss out and drift about the listener. Perhaps it’s the prominence of the acoustic guitar, or Stewart’s voice, which neatly eschews the angelic glossolalia that so many female dreampop vocalists engage in for something a bit — dare I say — grittier (especially on the plaintive “Truth Dear”). In any case, it’s apparent that the trio are not interested in merely rehashing Cocteau Twins-esque soundscapes (even though the Twins lurk in the music’s background).
The more I think about it, the more I’m unsure that “ambient” is the right descriptor for Sleep Experiments’ music. At the risk of sounding snarky, precocious, or twee, I think I’m just going to describe Sleep Experiments as “comfort” music. As with Velour 100, Ida, etc., there’s nothing showy or flashy going on in the trio’s music, not even during a slow-burning climax like the title track’s. That, of course, isn’t the same as saying that it’s boring. Rather, songs like “Seasons Change” and “Seated/Still” cast a spell over the listener that is anything but boring, and it’s a spell that works precisely because the music is so unassuming, assured, and restful. (When Stewart sings “Be satisfied in mystery/And find your rest in trusting me”, she might very well be describing the band’s modus operandi.) You want to surrender to this music, to give in to its mellow, unadorned autumnal timbre.
As such, it might just be the thing to get you through some summer-induced “cabin fever” on days when it seems so nice that you feel like you ought to be outside, but actually being outside is torture by degrees (literally). If you can stay inside, curl up with a favorite beverage and maybe even a good book while something as lovely as Flight Takes Thought plays in the background conjuring up cooler autumn days, why would you ever want to go outside in the first place?