When I saw that fellow Tulsa label, Scissor Tail, was reissuing this classic ambient record, I was excited. Marc Barreca’s The Sleeper Wakes is delicately constructed. Using early samplers and various processing techniques, Barreca creates sparse sonic landscapes, each with only a few elemental pieces stitched together into a greater, astrally-drifting whole. The odd timbres interlock into a gentle cradle where meditation and relaxation flow.
Recorded in 1986, I am continually surprised how current The Sleeper Wakes sounds. Crystalline pads glisten like clockwork on “Tempting Bridges,” giving off an enveloping expansiveness where space and time standstill. Deliberative movement rises and falls through repetitive chord progressions while heavily-effected percussive sounds twinkle like underwater stars. Barreca takes that last idea further on “Out Delphi,” which follows “Tempting Bridges,” utilizing processed tuned percussion samples to create jittery alien worlds. It’s delightfully hypnotic.
Many moments on The Sleeper Wakes have an underwater feel to them, even if the album as a whole is utterly cosmic. The submerged gamelan returns at high speed on “Games With Shifting Mirrors” while rolling synth tones float unhurriedly below. The dichotomy is mesmerizing, pulling in opposite directions to meet a central point. Once there, movement stops and the moment hangs motionless.
Barreca’s compositions aren’t overly complicated. His ability to use a few ideas and craft deeply engaging aural vignettes impresses throughout. From the opening title track and its transcendent ability to instantly transport listeners into this new sound world to the leisurely ambiance of “Night and the Compass,” Marc Barreca’s The Sleeper Wakes is a beautiful, affecting gift.
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