You canít say he didnít warn you. When Berliner Renť Margraff chose a name for his solo project, and later his debut album, he certainly wasnít misleading; the references to schlafen are ample indication that Margraff was fully aware Sleeping Pills isnít going to be 2009ís party record. Making liberal use of gentle melody over washes of accumulated tones and drifting drones, this debut is beautiful in both seductive and sedative ways.
Despite some differences in composition, Sleeping Pillsí nine tracks exhibit most of the same traits. A guitar, often with echo, plucks out a simple, plaintive melody over an ambient background, usually either field recording or washes of synthesizer. Margraff usually opts for a crisper, clearer sound on top, with the tonal cushion below cracked, pockmarked, or rough. ďElevenĒ foils the formula a bit, to nice effect, dissolving the border between foreground and back-, and adding a sliver of ambiguity to the mix. The hierarchy that defines the album, however, with the guitar plainly up front, has a tendency to anchor the music in an undesirable way, bringing what could be a more moving abstract sound back to Earth.
Were Margraff in possession of a time machine, he might be in luck. Music comes with no expiration date, and a style isnít limited to a single era, but Sleeping Pills feels far too familiar to make much of a splash. In any style well established in the cultural psyche, subsequent efforts within the same will need to be increasingly remarkable to make an impression. Just as three decades of repetition have left once fearsome punk antics snooze-worthy to most, Pillowdriverís dreamy debut, attractive as it can be, simply doesnít demand attention in any significant way. Margraff has made some alluring music, but its potential to inspire emotion isnít often fulfilled.