Recommended: Last Step – Sleep

It’s not uncommon to hear musicians talk about music that came to them in their dreams. It is, however, uncommon to hear of musicians actively composing music during their period of slumber. Strange as it may seem, that is exactly how Canadaian producer Last Step, better known to most as Venetian Snares, put together his latest album. “For a while, when I was really tired and ready to go to bed instead of going to sleep I would make a tune. Get some stuff going on my sequencers, drum machines, patch up my modular and just jam it. Would fall asleep a lot listening to the sequences, few seconds of sleep or a few minutes, wake up in it. This is what I sound like in my sleep.” While the album artwork caught our attention, and the central theme ensured out full focus, the music itself is what makes this remarkable collection stand out.

The individual tracks are wrought from the same materials, painted from the same palette, though the album does not suffer from any sense of repetitiveness, as each track turns down unexpected corridors in the artist’s mind. Simple club tracks are turned nightmarish through the use of unsettling time signatures, unfamiliar phrasing and discordant modulating synths. Imagine a collage of classic drum machines, gurgling acid and snarling synth lines. “Xyrem”, named after a drug that combats narcolepsy, fizzes and shakes on a seven-bar loop, nervous tension lifting it through movement after movement before drifting off as the drug takes effect. “Somno”, from the Latin word for sleep, kicks like a Tyree club banger on medication. “Microsleeps” rattles with creaking pipes and ghostly themes, before shifting into an arpeggiated jam, shifting through different patterns like a sleeper moves through different doorways in a dream world.

“Obispo”, the shortest piece, is a percussive yet melodious piece that is as heavy as it is brief. “Avocado” could work in the darkest of clubs, albeit only if played by the most skilled of DJs, returning as it does to the liquid state of non-standard timing, bubbling and squirming with harsh acid and searing hi-hats. “Cimicdae”, meanwhile, is the darkest piece, as echoing percussion combines with detuned melodies and shrill synths to truly terrify the listener. Appropriate for a track titled for those most feared of nocturnal horrors: bedbugs. The album comes to a close with “Rohypno”, the etymology of which we’re sure we don’t have to explain. Though hardly as filled with dread as “Cimicdae”, this one still packs a chilling punch, and closes the album on as unsettling note as one would expect. Every night when you drift off to sleep, you’re as likely to be plagued by nightmares as you are blessed with restful repose. It would be easy to say that this is an accomplished work for someone who did it in his sleep, but leaving the novelty factor aside, this collection still has the power to agitate and enthral. If anything the conceit behind the album’s composition adds to its charm, rather than being its excuse.

Stream: Last Step – Microsleeps Sample (Planet Mu)

Stream: Last Step – Cimicdae Sample (Planet Mu)

Last Step – Sleep is out now on Planet Mu.

Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ...