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Sleeper Coach

Sleeper Coach
(Loose Thread Recordings)

I don't think it's any coincidence that Zelienople has for the second time now released an album just on the edge of fall. Their debut Pajama Avenue moved in seriously subtle ways, with soft guitars and keyboards combining with quiet vocals for a woozy pop gem. By comparison, Sleeper Coach makes even their debut album sound almost poppy in comparison. More dense in terms of overall sound, this newest release pushes their sound into a more drone-based realm, nearly completely stripping their work of keyboards and replacing them with heavy (often dissonant) droning washes and more varied instrumentation.

"Sea Bastards" opens the disc and the change is pretty apparent from the get-go as eerie layers of feedback swirl and swell before guitars and vocals enter the mix. Eventually, a submerged rhythm section enters, but the track is more disconcerting than anything. "Softkiller" harnesses some of that tension with a repetitive and driving bassline that carries more weary vocals as the track takes off with a beautiful chiming layer of guitars and other sweeps of feedback.

While Pajama Avenue was never exactly a shiny happy release, Sleeper Coach is also definitely more dreary. It reminds me of similarly droney and cold albums like Labradford's first couple of releases and some of the more bleached-out early work by Flying Saucer Attack. Fortunately, the group manages to keep things changing up slightly on the release instead of letting it slip completely into a land of droning nowhere. "Corner Lot" brings back the rhythm section and the hollowed-out core of drums and glints of guitar float like a dream past loops of occasionally harsh drones.

"Don't Be Lonely" takes things even a step further as the group slips into sort of a shuffling drone-jazz that makes for one of the best tracks on the entire release. The fact that the group recorded the release onto an archaic 8-track only adds to the fuzzy, swirling mystery that is their second release. "Ship That Goes Down" is the closest thing you get to any of the tracks on their first release as a buzzy synth is added for another warm texture as the track builds into a slow-core gem. While it's definitely not as immediately accessible as their first effort, Sleeper Coach is an album that reveals itself slowly and should provide a perfect soundtrack this winter if you happen to get snowed in.

Rating: 7.25