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Sleep Station: After the War

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Sleep Station: After the War (Eyeball Records)
In an age of quick hits, it is refreshing to hear an album that was meant to be heard as a whole. Sleep Station historically has created records centered on one common theme; their line of credits include Hang in There Charlie about an astronaut isolated in space, and the Von Cosel EP—about a doctor/patient love affair. Their latest effort, After the War , is an aptly titled concept album representing the widespread effects of World War II, and concentrates upon one soldier’s story while weaving in the voices of others whom the war has touched.

The album has a distinctly cinematic feel to it. In fact, front man Dave Debiak quite purposely imagines his records in terms of film, having ended up on the concept album path haphazardly while trying to create a film soundtrack. He says, “The first concept record I wrote came as an afterthought. I actually intended to make a movie yet had no means to produce it. I could never have come up with a budget to shoot, so I thought I would at the very least write a score for the film. Since then, I have been thinking of things in a more cinematic mode.”

The cinematic mode of which Debiak speaks is most certainly present on After the War. The album has a grand, sweeping sense to it, partially because it deals with a subject as universal and all-encompassing as war, but also because the music feels epic, as a film soundtrack would. Yet the music has a distinctly warm, human feel, as well; the grand scope does not alienate us, but instead draws us in. There is a penetrating, affecting sense of sadness in these songs, one that remains just below the surface of the music but which is present and vaguely understood, even if we cannot completely identify the source. The songs are, for the most part, uplifting in spirit, but flooded with an unseen and profound sense of sorrow that war must inevitably leave in its wake.

The one failing of the album is that the songs tend to blend together, one at times indistinguishable from the next. However, there are a few standout tracks, namely the first one, in addition to “Lullaby” and “Goodnight to the Moon.” It definitely takes quite a few listens to fully appreciate the sound, because it’s clear that the album is full of complexity. To really channel the feel of World War II, the band recorded the album on vintage 1940s musical equipment, an effort that cannot go unnoticed in the quality of sound. As a general rule, if something can be written off as too homogenous or simplistic right away, it usually means that something has been missed. In this case, After the War surely requires more than a handful of once-overs in order to grasp its subtleties and shades of complexity, much like a great book that must be continually reread.

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