Two years ago I saw Art of Sleeping play a midday set at Splendour in the Grass. The crowd that gathered witnessed a performance of immense passion which, at its peaks, filled the capacious marquee. This band’s potential was evident, but their engaging moments – namely Above the Water and Empty Hands – were too few for them to have been an act of note at the festival.
Come 2015, and, in Shake Shiver, Art of Sleeping have released a storied and captivating debut album that has far exceeded my expectations. With no disrespect to the band, it’s the album’s consistency that I found most surprising. Honestly, I was prepared to find three or four layered, grand and memorable songs, interspersed with morose filler; instead, I found a masterpiece.
The pounding intro to Win Your Heart sets the pace for an album that ebbs and flows with as much grace as dynamism, demonstrating a unique aptitude I’ve always applauded in Art of Sleeping: their ability to be simultaneously intimate and grandiose. It’s only with their debut LP, however, that this aptitude has finally come to the fore in a consistent and meaningful way.
The delicate lilt of Caleb Hodges on Crazy belies the ferocity of the guitar chords that follow. It’s this balance of tenderness and raw emotion – also prominent on Bleeding Out and Voodoo – that works so well. Art of Sleeping make lullabies, only with crashing cymbals and searing riffs.
Another highlight is the irresistible melody of Jefferson, which tempers the album’s frequent moments of sober introspection. It’s my favourite cut from the album, providing a decidedly lighter approach to the wealth of lyrical excellence that forms Shake Shiver. Among the album’s more poignant moments is the breathtaking Burning Bright, which is perhaps the best example of Hodges’ vocal prowess.
My only issue with Shake Shiver is the track listing; where Voodoo could have been a powerful closing track, The Cage – by no means unworthy of a spot on the album – strikes a somewhat dour final chord. Overall, though, Shake Shiver is an impeccable album. Art of Sleeping have proved themselves to be a tremendous musical presence, not just locally, but across Australia. With a debut album as impressive as theirs, you can expect that to become the world in the near future.