I’ve been suffering from night sweats recently. I’m not sure what it is about our psychology or the kinds of days we’re living in where, upon bedtime, our daily anxieties are brought to a boil. And while for most sleep is eventually achieved, our subconscious still struggles throughout the night and sends our body into panic without our knowledge or permission. It’s disconcerting to say the least, and does little to alleviate our pre-existing insecurities, even though our sleep should be and could be an opportunity for us to gather and center ourselves for the approaching day. Animal Collective member Deakin (aka Josh Dibb) relishes on his long-awaited solo debut, Sleep Cycle.
The project that eventually became Sleep Cycle was originally conceived in late 2009 when Deakin set up a Kickstarter in order to aid him in travelling to Mali so he could play the Festival in the Desert, as well as raise money for an anti-slavery movement called Temedt. The financial goal was achieved in time, but Deakin quickly developed second thoughts, telling Pitchfork “the [Kickstarter] was up for a day or two before I realized that I felt incredibly uncomfortable about the idea of asking people to fund a trip for me to go to Africa … that’s why the project turned into a charity thing.” All the proceeds were given to Temedt, and Deakin funded his trip to play the festival himself. Come 2012, Deakin found himself with no music to show for his fundraising efforts, chalking it up to “fatal perfectionism” in the same interview with Pitchfork and telling his backers in a statement: “On a personal level I have been coming to terms with my own creative process and some of that has been to accept that things take a long time to work through me.” Sleep Cycle, finally finished three years after he made that statement, is a full realization of that sort of introspection and the awoken fears and reaffirmations that come with it.
Only six tracks long, the album doesn’t waste a single moment on frivolous experimentation and moves at its own pace in a way that’s almost narrative: It fees like a night where sleep is achievable, but not without overcoming a restless mind.
It opens soothing, muted, and uncertain with “Golden Chorus”, a lullaby of reassurance rather than a denial of monsters both exterior and interior of ourselves. “Stop believing your being’s been shattered and distorted,” Deakin coos, “cause brother you’re so full of love.” Following is “Just Am”, bringing with it swirling, colorful memories of Mali before it opens itself to questioning why certain memories keep returning and for what purpose. “Reweighed each choice so many times I’ve lost reflection,” he offers. “Cause I hold onto things that dearly need replacing.” He then makes the album’s first breakthrough: “When I let go I just am.”
Not quite reaching its ultimate realization, Sleep Cycle welcomes “Footy”, an excitable fit of math rock and playful melodies that come in restless waves. Featuring Dutch E. Germ (aka Tim Dewit) on drums, the track sounds like a fever dream scored by the likes of Hella or Tera Melos. Dealing reaches a new sense of bravery and cannot be contained. Self-control is regained with the splash of cold water on the face that is the following interlude, “Seed Song”, which recalls Animal Collective’s “Panic” from their less accessible days on Here Comes the Indian. “Good House” returns to the lulling tone of “Golden Chorus”, but by this point, it feels like something more wholesome and certain has been learned. With lines like “So I breathe my way down/ And I breathe my way deeper/ When I’ve grown, I ascend,” Deakin praises the positivity and growth to be found in the anxieties that follow us into the night. We’ve just got to remember to remove them of their weight at the end of the day and remind ourselves to breathe and just be.
Unassuming and minimal in its execution with a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts, Sleep Cycle establishes itself as a captivating journey inwards towards a destination that’s as comforting as it is reaffirming — and likely what a lot of us need for a good night’s sleep.
Essential Tracks: “Golden Chorus”, “Just Am”, and “Good House”