Instrumental rock is an incredibly hard form of music to master. While purveyors of the genre such as 65daysofstatic, Mogwai and Explosions In The Sky are freed from the restrictions that vocals can place on the structures of songs, the lack of lyrics – and, subsequently, the vocals that go with them – mean there is a far greater pressure on the instruments to deliver an emotional impact.
That emotional impact is something that was achieved by Sydney post-rockers sleepmakeswaves when they released their debut album, …And So We Destroyed Everything, back in 2011. The four-piece hit on a winning formula first time round, with their breathtaking melodies, dreamlike soundscapes and epic crescendos generating significant buzz, resulting in extensive tours and even a performance at the 2012 SXSW festival.
Despite impressing with their debut album, the band needed to raise over $30,000 in crowdfunding to make the follow-up, Love Of Cartography, with producer Nick DiDia (Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against The Machine) at Studios 31 in Byron Bay. The result is a record that manages to take sleepmakeswaves’ sound forward once again, while also retaining the melodic and cinematic quality that made their debut so irresistible.
Opener Perfect Detonator is an ideal introduction to Love Of Cartography, demonstrating just how far the band have come in the three years since they released …And So We Destroyed Everything. The track is almost six minutes of unpredictability, kicking off with an explosion of guitars and a crashing drum beat, before evolving into a mesmerising melody. Just as it seems to be winding down, the guitars take off again, delivering a final gut punch.
It is followed by Traced In Constellations, which is much more reminiscent of sleepmakeswaves’ early material, with frenzied guitars providing a straightforward slice of heavy rock – one with an elegant underlying melody. Great Northern is another that is built upon a patient, delicate melody, before giving way to swirling guitar riffs and a thumping drum beat.
Yet, the centerpiece of Love Of Cartography is the stunning eight-minute epic Emergent, which is a prime example of how sleepmakeswaves have pushed themselves for their second record. The song has several different phases and takes the listener on an impressive journey, progressing from a dreamy, sparse soundscape through to relentless guitars and a wall-of-sound at its conclusion.
Then there’s the brutal The Stars Are Stigmata, which bassist Alex Wilson has already described as possibly one of the “darkest and most aggressive” songs that the band have ever written. It’s new territory for the quartet and also clearly helped by the guiding hand of DiDia, with pummeling guitar riffs and drum machines giving the song an almost sinister edge. However, heavy middle of the record is quickly subverted by the sparse beauty of A Little Spark, which delivers so much by doing so little.
As the record reaches its conclusion, sleepmakeswaves add even more layers to their already diverse sound, with single Something Like Avalanches containing the electronic element that the band had only previously hinted at. It’s one of the most tightly constructed and polished songs on the record – to the extent that it almost feels out of place – while closer Your Time Will Come Again delivers a slow-burning crescendo that is now the band’s trademark.
The end result is an album that is restless from start to finish. Following the reception to their debut, it would have been easy for sleepmakeswaves to try and replicate the formula, but Love Of Cartography constantly looks forward. As with the best instrumental acts, the record does not suffer from the lack of vocals, with more than enough going on in each song to keep the listener interested. Keep an eye out, because sleepmakeswaves are undoubtedly one to watch.