erasing clouds

Sleeping States, There the Open Spaces

reviewed by dave heaton

There the Open Spaces begins with overlapping versions of Markland Starkie, aka Sleeping States, singing a capalla: “when I’m getting ready / in spite of the rain / you sometimes ring me up and say / ‘another time’”. It’s a captivating intro to an album possessed by the lonely glow generated by one person singing, and by the sense of indecision suggested by the lyrics…and, for that matter, by both the joy of going out on the town and the desire to stay in. By the liveliness of the city and the stillness of the open spaces of the title. Starkie sings this song, “Rain Check” like this is Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, and sometimes it is – though it also sometimes resembles an experimental guitar album in the vein of Sonic Youth.

Most often it lies somewhere between, and that’s an exciting place to be. The second song “Rivers” starts out with him playing around on the guitar, but soon becomes a lovely guitar-rock single, with a cloud of fuzz about it but also the same sort of pure singing – absolutely bringing to mind late-night jazz-crooning, but without a flawless singing voice (sometimes he resembles a more grounded Jeff Buckley) – as the introductory song. “September, Maybe” attains something similar but breezier, but also with more of a lift (less drift, more lift). A more pop version of a ‘90s alternative-rock guitar anthem, perhaps. Elsewhere (“Planning My Escape”, “Contact Lunacy”) he keeps the mood introspective but at the same time with a current of wildness underneath.

Above all, it’s a rare sense of intimacy that Sleeping States achieves. There the Open Spaces is one of those albums that immediately puts you inside your own head, and pleasantly so. It makes the world around us disappear. Not in an escapist way, though; the songs are nearly all about relating to other people, or feeling pulled towards and away from them. It’s music with a unique purity and quietude about it, like nothing else released this year.


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