When Sleeper released his first EPs for his own imprint Crucial Recordings last year, it seemed obvious that the label was not simply meant as another outfit for the UK producer to publish music on. The music presented on these first few EPs displayed an evolution in his style, towards something more introspective sounds that can be heard in different contexts. This trend was still reflected by his “Burn Finger” EP from earlier this year, as well as in the records from other artists the label has released since its ignition, which all feel carefully selected and meticulously composed.
The imprint’s seventh release sounds like another step in this direction, with four tracks that seem to have been specifically written to work together, listened as a whole that makes musical sense. This is especially true of the A-side, whose two tracks could almost be considered as two parts of a single tune – even though they’re clearly different, the succession of those two tracks feels flawless. More generally though, the length of the tracks – all of them being between 3:30 and 4 minutes long – as well as their overall atmosphere, which is as strangely soothing as it is menacing, allow this EP to form one very cohesive listen.
Opener “Girl Scout Cookies” sets the pace with style, its looped guitar tones and repetitive patterns melting to introduce us to the ambiance of the EP. As the track vanishes, things get darker with “Akai Headbutt”’s piano notes and inverted sounds. The tune adds a psychedelic element to the style that Sleeper draws for, carried by mystic synths that act as a counterpoint to the track’s ominous, distorted bassline. With its subtle samples and hidden details, “Akai Headbutt” almost feels cinematic, drawing another part of a larger story.
The two remaining tracks do not depart from this scheme. “Crushin” uses similar sounds, as Sleeper arranges them to develop yet another twist on the theme of the EP: though it is as dark as its predecessor, “Crushin” also seems more ethereal. The track’s main theme is repeated throughout, as an hypnotic loop that still feels just as present whenever it is cut by one of the tune’s many bridges or silences. The closer, “Ghosts”, rounds things off with another narcotic pattern which seems to echo “Girl Scout Cookies”’ guitar from a distance.
Once “Ghosts”’ final tones eventually dissolve into silence, it seems hard not to admit that the Crushin EP is an impressive listen – one that further cements Sleeper’s place in the dubstep scene. Crucial’s seventh release evidences the label’s founder’s sound design skills, with subtle details permeating throughout its different parts and sounds that always seem perfectly in their place, as well as his ability to use them to create a greater whole. Crushin is another step forward for both Sleeper and Crucial Recordings, and should prove to become a landmark in both their discographies.