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As indicated by a recent trip to Chicago’s Electrical Audio Studio (owned by Nirvana/The Pixies mastermind Steve Albini), Chicago band SLEEPING AT LAST have once again upped the artistic ante in this ambitious, self-produced affair, while concurrently maintaining relatability on all planes. Their third national release, Storyboards, is an intricate web that builds off the surging soundscapes of 2003’s Ghosts and the lush atmospherics of 2006’s Keep No Score, coupled with previously uncharted instrumental expeditions and glorious orchestration.
“Every time we go into the studio, we want to stretch ourselves musically as much as possible and we’ve noticed that each record seems to have a couple tracks that hint at the direction we’ll explore on the next,” suggests O’Neal, citing the addition of varied string arrangement styles, the folksy ukulele and a plethora of earthy but exotic adjunct instruments throughout Storyboards. “This time out, the results are really intimate where we’re utilizing a lot of really specific sounds and also working with people we’ve never had a chance to work with before that we really admire.”
And those visions have certainly caught the ear of several world class heavy-hitters, including legendary arranger Van Dyke Parks (Brian Wilson’s SMiLE, U2, Tim Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Ringo Starr), multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Ryan Francesconi (Joanna Newsom), plus longtime string collaborators Susan Voelz (Poi Dog Pondering) alongside woodwinds master Paul Von Mertens (Wilson, Wilco, Paul McCartney), and Jeremy Larson (also a lauded solo artist in his own right). Add in engineers Greg Norman (Pelican, Russian Circles, Guided By Voices) along with mixer John Goodmanson (Death Cab for Cutie, Sleater Kinney, Nada Surf), and the group’s third venture is truly a charm.
Throughout the eleven interwoven tracks on the aptly titled Storyboards, themes of reflection, introspection, renewal and optimism are prevalent, in addition to an underlying affinity for nature. O’Neal and Perdue are both animal appreciators, practicing vegetarians and frequently support the Humane Society both on and off stage. [ioda]