After the hyper-active, Technicolor mish-mash that was the debut of Born Gold (aka Canadian mad genius Cecil Frena, formerly founding member of GOBBLE GOBBLE, whose legacy spawned a little splinter cell Purity Ring recently) entitled Body Songs, it was only natural to expect something either similar in energy to intense anthems like 'Wrinklecarver' and 'Lawn Knives', or an off-shoot closer to the 80s infused stylings of Purity Ring's 'Belispeak'. What nothing prepared me for however, was what follow-up Little Sleepwalker would turn out to be.
In short, Frena's new vehicle sounds like the slightly dystopian future of pop. It's a sleeker effort, more heavily produced but also more ambitious, mature; darker in parts, just as (if not more) whimsical in others, and overall a much more rounded effort than Bodysongs. Best summed up as 'dark electro' or heavily experimental future-pop, 'Little Sleepwalker' will be just as rewarding whether you're a long time fan of his previous incarnation or Cecil newbie, so long as you're not after saccharine pop-thrills or dance-floor fillers. This is electro at its most refined.
Take 'Lethe' for example; already intellectually elevated electro-pop by dint of its literary title (Lethe is/was one the river of forgetfulness, one of the five rivers of Hades) and appropriate surging synths, dreamy, auto-tuned and heavily processed vocal melodies and fluid rhythms. Reminiscent of a combination of minimalist techno and electro-house of the early 2000s (think Bola, Murcof, or Frederico Franchi) crossed with someone like Hyetal or Paul Hartnoll.
Provided you're not put off by the occasionally glitchy beats, the heavily obscured vocals and slow-builds, this is an intense album of fantastic re-playability; its nuances slowly revealing themselves to you across multiple listens like an abstract painting that needs to be gazed at intently until you realise the meaning is there for you to extrapolate yourself.
Aside from being consummately well produced and wonderfully variegated in colour and texture, Little Sleepwalker is extra-admirable for having the balls to follow up such a kinetic debut with a relatively contemplative second album. It's only a sincere compliment to Mr. Frena that despite, or perhaps because of the sonic diversion of Megan James and Corin Roddick (Purity Ring) that this new offering marks such a volte-face whilst managing to both stay true to the 'feel' of GOBBLE GOBBLE and not at all ape his erstwhile band-mates new sound.
This is a dense album that might affront at first listen. However, delve deeper and the intelligent and ambitious beauty of tracks such as 'Dawn Tunnel', 'Gauze Pillars' and 'That Way' will come to utterly dominate your daily listening schedule. Like a phoenix from the flames, 'Born Gold' is most certainly a perfectly apt moniker for Frena's new venture. Massively recommended if you're remotely into electro or left-field pop.