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Pye Corner Audio - Sleep Games

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Artist: Pye Corner Audio

Album: Sleep Games

Label: Ghost Box

Review date: Oct. 18, 2012

For those following the thoroughly British Ghost Box label since its inception in 2004, Pye Corner Audio’s Sleep Games won’t come as a noticeable seismic shift in the label’s direction. Though it doesn’t traffic in the mystical medieval whimsy invoked by Belbury Poly or the ’60s fetishism of Roj or the New York Times Book Review bumper music of that Mount Vernon Arts Lab reissue, Sleep Games enthusiastically invokes the spirit of the label without making its references to British science fiction as plainspoken as the rest of the roster has in the past.

More than anything, what unites Sleep Games to its brethren is a shameless love of and devotion to that once-dirty word, “progressive.” Sweeping synthesizer melodies like “Deep End” and “A Door in the Dry Ice” or the deep intergalactic pulse running through “Palais Spectres” demonstrate that Our Head Technician – the anonymous but fairly approachable guy behind the project – has a deep love of Jean Michel Jarre, Popol Vuh and assorted ’70s b-movie space soundtracks. I also hear traces of Yes and even The Alan Parsons Project in its grand scope and occasionally addicting, well-nigh friendly melodies. As advertised, John Carpenter, post-rave comedowns, and VHS copies of the original Wicker Man are also threaded throughout. You know the guys at 20jazzfunkgreats lose sleep over copping stuff like this.

Of course, if Sleep Games were that simple, we’d slap a “Moroder via Van Der Graaf Generator” tag to it and call it a day. But it’s far, far stranger than merely prog. Prog is the beating heart of the album, but Our Head Technician’s campy sci-fi synthscapes are interwoven with the dark hauntology and sinister shadows of Italo horror soundtracks, early post-punk and industrial, and musique concrète. A recent Silent Servant mix for Fact settled Pye Corner Audio right in next to Minimal Wave releases and Cabaret Voltaire, and his affiliation with the Modern Love crew and Joseph Stannard of The Outer Church is documented. So, early in the album, you get the two Prins Thomas-esque space-disco songs of the title-track and “The Black Mill Video Tape” followed by the aloof interlude “Print Through,” another melodic track in “Deep End,” the minimal thump of “Into the Maze,” and the creepy “Experimental Road Surface.” Its willingness to explore sounds that wouldn’t necessarily jive out of context is admirable.

While I’d never suggest that Sleep Games (incredibly unsettling sleep music, by the way) is about escaping that aforementioned “essential Britishness,” you can hear that the added influences make it both more and less of that mindset. I’ve tried talking about Jarre and Vangelis and Prins Thomas only to return to Demdike Stare and 20 Jazz Funk Greats and rave culture. Which is what makes Pye Corner Audio’s latest the marquee example of Ghost Box at their most distilled, their most essential: reaching beyond by reaching within.

By Patrick Masterson

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