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A Light Sleeper picture
A Light Sleeper biography
Chicago-oriented combo A Light Sleeper have been founded as "an ever-evolving quartet exploring collaborative composition from the bottom up" by Maria Elena HERNANDEZ (saxophones), Traci NEWHOUSE (viola), D. PENNEPALLI (guitars), and Matthew JUNG (drums, keyboards). In 2012 they've released two eps titled "Brevity" and "Conclusion", and finally in 2019 "Distinction (A Ballet In Six Parts)" in collaboration with David KELLER (cello, tambura).

~ Not revised nor fixed without permission ~

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A LIGHT SLEEPER discography

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3.96 | 5 ratings
Distinction (A Ballet in Six Parts)
4.05 | 3 ratings

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3.00 | 1 ratings
4.00 | 1 ratings


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Equaeverpoise by LIGHT SLEEPER, A album cover Studio Album, 2023
4.05 | 3 ratings

A Light Sleeper RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars While one may think the artwork for this album is a little unusual, as is the title, nothing prepares the listener for what this album actually sounds like. A Light Sleeper is a quartet, consisting of Maria Elena Hernandez (alto and tenor saxophone), Traci Huff (viola), Matthew Jung (drums, keyboards), and Dheeru Pennepalli (guitar) and is their first album since 2019's 'Distinction (A Ballet In Six Parts)' when they were a quintet including cellist David Kellar. I am sure the reason he is no longer in the band as there is just no room within the intricate arrangements which are layered and interwoven so everyone is a lead player, and everyone is support.

When music is as complex, experimental and off the wall as this, reviewers often like to fall back on labels, and who am I to ignore such as well-used approach, so how about chamber music, post rock, RIO and avant garde that has been heavily influenced by Art Zoyd? Or, Zappa taken to illogical extremes? They may be American but there is a very French style to their sound and if they had been signed to Dur et Doux I would not have been surprised, but here they are happily resplendent on one of my other very favourite labels in the world, Cuneiform.

This is not music for the masses but rather it is for those who like to savour what is being provided and sent their way, who want to sit back and try to understand what is being delivered instead of sitting in the mainstream. This is so left field as to be in a different county altogether and is all the better for it. That this is a masterpiece of modern music is never in doubt, nor that it will be ignored by critics who should know better. One never knows what is coming in the next bar, let alone how the piece is going to develop, and if adventurous music piques your interest, then this is simply indispensable.

 Distinction (A Ballet in Six Parts) by LIGHT SLEEPER, A album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.96 | 5 ratings

Distinction (A Ballet in Six Parts)
A Light Sleeper RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars "A Light Sleeper" is a RIO/Avant Prog band from Chicago who released 2 EPs in 2012. Their first regular album wasn't released until May of 2019 and is entitled "Distinction (A Ballet in Six Parts)" which is based on the creative process. For this album, the band has grown from a quartet to a quintet featuring the original band members Maria Elena Hernandez (saxophone, clainet, percussion and voices), Traci Newhouse (viola and backup voice), D. Pennepalli (guitars and backup vocals), and Matthew Jung on drums and keyboards. The fifth and newest member of the band for this album is David Keller on cello and tambura. Each one of the six parts is divided by the tracks and the album is available on Bandcamp.

The first part of this ballet is "Ends and Means" (4:12). Starting with a simple acoustic guitar, a very symphonic sound comes in from the keys which is later replaced by the viola. Drums suddenly come in and change the tone of the movement to a more frantic sound and then vocals come in with non-standard structure, an interesting and odd use of intervals, singing and quasi- spoken words. The viola seems to have the most say in this track and the guitar bursts out with strong chords from time to time. The music quickly shifts in dynamics and moving from uneasy calm to sudden outbursts of heaviness. "Invisible Measures" (5:05) combines more acoustic guitar, viola and cello, which is used to create some of the heavier passages. Soon, the sax shines through, but all instruments have some say in the matter. Vocals start after a minute, again with untraditional structure. The melodies and themes are distinct, yet a bit complex. The sound is quite organic and natural feeling, even with it's shifting dynamics. During the instrumental break, repeated themes with interesting interval shifts keep things interesting. At four minutes, the clarinet and drums have a duel and then the acoustic guitar and sax come in to create more uneasiness to everything.

"Blankly Stated Spaces" (7:01) begins with a more western / gypsy style mixed between the guitar and the sax, yet it is slow and pensive. The viola and cello do most of the building here. Around two minutes, a short vocal section is backed by plucked strings and the music builds off of that. A sax sweetly sings over the top of this pizzicato sound and then it gets more abrasive. Then the cello and viola take turns sawing away while scattered sprinklings of guitar and keys pop up. A whirling synth effect goes flying off into space and the strings and sax continue to work together. Later, the synth comes back in whirling around like a dervish giving the otherwise organic and brassy sound a humorous edge.

"The View from Above You" (4:19) begins with slow moving strings, this time on a more sustained feeling until the drums come and go stirring things up a bit from time to time. A playful, descending riff repeats interrupted for a short dissonant section and around 3 minutes, things calm down and the vocals come in. At first this is backed just by the strings, but the 2nd stanza adds the drums that help move it all forward. The vocals continue with an interesting harmonic interval. "Ubiquity" (1:01) is a short and dissonant instrumental with sustained viola and cello.

"Distiction (a means to an end)" (8:48) is the last movement of the ballet. The cello wanders about along with screeching viola and plucked tambura. This track continues in a more unstructured and dissonant manner until just after 2 minutes, when the cello and drums create some kind of consistant pattern, however, the screeching sax and clarinet keep coming in to make things chaotic and dissonant. The track continues in this manner with sections that sail along smoothly and then get broken up with bursts of confusion. The vocals don't come in until just before the 5 minute mark. Again, the song structure is non traditional. Some echoing effects get added to the vocals just before the give way to the instruments again. Processed wordless vocals echo along with a more smoothly flowing section of strings and drums, later taken over with acoustic guitar and picked strings. They move faster and faster and other instruments quickly join together to create a loud and chaotic ending.

This music is quite unique, though it is also strangely melodic, though not in any traditional sense. There is a nice, organic feel to it all which is because of the extensive use of the viola and cello, which surprisingly adds a lot of dynamic and sometimes even heavy texture to everything. The addition of sax makes it even that much more unique. There is a sparse use of guitar and keyboards, though they are in there, they are not the lead instruments in most cases. For the most part, there is surprisingly little use of dissonance for an avant prog band, though it is in there, mostly on the last track, however, there is a nice, unconventional use of intervals in the melodies and harmonies that make up for that, and the use of dynamics and mood shifts is excellent. It's not perfect, but it is excellent and different, a bit quirky at times, but not over the top. I wish it were longer, however, as it only barely exceeds 30 minutes. But it is still worthwhile for those that love their music organic with splashes of synth and electronics to keep it a bit on the modern side, but that is also used sparingly. Easily a 4 star album.

Thanks to dAmOxT7942 for the artist addition.

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