Album Review: Sleep Heavy by Jabu
Having teased us with the haunting and hypnotic Fool If, Jabu finally revealed the complete soundscape of their Sleep Heavy LP (celebrated with an in-store live performance down at Bristol’s most iconic Idle Hands). Building 11 tracks with Amos Childs’ musical creations and vocal symbiosis between Alex Randall and the new joining member - Jasmine Butt, the trio takes us on a musical and textural journey through a sombre confession of howling memories, exploration of grief, and eventual emotional clearing.
For those not familiar yet with the Bristol’s most pronounced and thriving group:
Young Echo drives the city’s creative underground scene, inspiring cross genre; everything from spoken poetry, through distorted punk and techno, to ambient-dubwise soothing pieces. Quite obviously drawing their creativity from beyond Bristol’s already rich soundsystem and bass music tradition, they challenge each other by building numerous collaborations (Zhou, Killing Sound, O$VMV$M to name a few), as well as through bringing different sounds to the table, to then mash it up, dub it out, and lyrically spill their spirits out on top of it. Young Echo represents much more than just productions and releases, it’s the community of creative Youth; it’s the meetings, atmosphere, the night time listenings, visual arts, political involvement - questioning the habitual order of all things art. Such innovative background of local avantgarde and collectivity, birthed the project known today as Jabu.
Pairing Jabu with the ethereal imprint of sounds (Blackest Ever Black) seems like the most sound-appropriate move to have been made, giving Sleep Heavy a comfortable and uniform place in the label’s catalogue amongst the works of artists such as Pessimist, Ossia or Dalhous. With some productions unpolished, delivered beautifully raw ('On', 'Give') it enhances the blending quality with contrasting soulful and emotional vocals, making the background even more unreal, and the voice even closer and intimate in the listener’s frame of reference. Other tracks however draw for horizontal, semi-liquid sound beds from a more traditional signature of ambient (Wounds, Searc). The cold, drafty productions rich in noise, stretching imperfections and reverberating distant rambling, resemble other original works of VMO$ (Amos Childs) such as those contributed to the duo project with Neek, under alias O$VMV$M (I have to triple check spelling on this one every time!). Combination of all elements provides a deep, insightful listening that withdraws you from reality into the nocturnal, romantic space of contemplation. As much as the tracks with their aesthetics easily enchant anyone with certain emotional and musical sensitivity, for those who resonate with the lyrics, the album will truly strike the chord. Thus as expected with Jabu’s work, the words synchronise the bleeding of a heartbreak with comforting poetry; not hiding their almost religious in tone (enhanced by stretched, gloomy choral parts) direct honesty about love.
With tracks such as 'Wounds' or 'Fool' If looping their way into mesmerising classics that will replay in listeners heads long after the record has finished, Jabu layers toxic romance and isolation with soothing harmonies, and almost meditative, even slower BPMs. Interweaving with distant angelic vocals resting on large amounts of reverb, it makes the listening highly emotional, if not in its intimate way - prayerful.
Jabu's Sleep Heavy LP is out now.