Review: Arms And Sleepers ‘What Tomorrow Brings’

The sheer volume of available music in the modern age is simply staggering. We have certainly experienced the uptick in submissions clamouring for attention here at Shaman Towers growing to an overwhelming number that makes me wonder how our benign overlord manages to sift through it all.

Arms And Sleepers 'What Tomorrow Brings' Artwork
Arms And Sleepers ‘What Tomorrow Brings’ Artwork

Chartmetric estimates that over 7.6 million tracks were released in 2023 alone and working in 8-hour shifts it would take something like 42 years to listen to it all.

With that in mind and reports of certain platform algorithms actually hurting musical diversity through same genre recommendations, you have to wonder how it is possible for the average listener to even be aware of some of the more fantastic releases out there, let alone find time to listen to them. Fortunately, some labels work hard not only to promote their artists but keep the spirit of exploration and variation alive.

Pelagic Records are certainly one of those and having been drawn to them initially for the sludge prog sounds of The Ocean, I have stayed for a plethora of artists from the brutal Lo! the scathing post-metal of SÂVER and Bipolar Architecture and the kraut rock of FAZI.

For those wishing to hook the Pelagic ethos up their veins, they offer a subscription guaranteeing eighteen releases a year of top-quality music that offers plenty of scope for people of eclectic tastes.

What has this to do with Arms And Sleepers I hear you cry? All this shilling for Pelagic is probably some attempt at getting some free coffee or hot sauce right? Wrong.

Arms And Sleepers are another fascinating act signed to the Berlin-based label. Coming to Germany from Bosnia, via Massachusetts, they are an electronic trip-hop project of producer Mirza Ramic (formerly a duo with Max Lewis) who have amassed a staggering number of releases (thirteen full albums and twenty EPs) since their inception in 2006.

Having fled war-torn Bosnia in the 1990s, Ramic has used his considerable life experience to create left-field experimentation that harnesses the power and ambience of modern post-rock combined with his cultural heritage and self-discovery, makes his latest album, What Tomorrow Brings, a unique and fascinating study of the impacts of life-changing journeys soundtracked by fifty minutes of genre-blurring, slow-burning ambience.

The motivation and inspiration for What Tomorrow Brings was initially Kenneth Branagh’s award-winning coming-of-age drama Belfast, which caused Ramic to reflect on his own experiences as a child, the death of his father and the outbreak of war in Ukraine, caused much reflection, both personal and on humanity’s future.

Divided into four distinct, musical sections titled Innocence, Melancholy, Rupture and Reflection that give thought to the mood of the pieces that make up the seventeen-track album, which is very much a conceptual soundtrack, although without the gap between tracks, the album would flow with even more fluidity, furthering the cinematic experience.

The majority of the album is instrumental, or punctuated by samples that reflect the intention of Arms And Sleepers at that moment, for example, the closer Who You Were Before brings down the final act, Reflection, with the poignant ‘I can’t get my head around it’, a striking conclusion albeit with an element of still searching after all the emotional inventory that has gone before.

a unique and fascinating study of the impacts of life-changing journeys soundtracked by fifty minutes of genre-blurring, slow-burning ambience…

Of the tracks with lead vocals, O-R-I-O-N features YEYEY (multi-instrumentalist Ben Shepard), a frequent collaborator with the band whose softly sung, dreamy narrative, backed by female voices offers introspective mellow harmonies over shimmering pop like beats is both soothing and laced with sadness.

Belfast by comparison is a haunting waltz-like sway with tender layering in the vocals, provided by the Guatemalan singer, actor, composer and multi-discipline artist Sofia Insua. As the arresting variations between richly articulated lines and spoken word glide over the stripped down jazz like composition with lines like ‘I can’t see things your way’, Arms And Sleepers strike a chord between nostalgia and melancholy.

Of the remaining tracks, Blood Song from the Rapture phase sees longtime friend Andreas Schutz (Piere Navarron of French electronic outfit il:lo) bring warm, sunny beats and deep synth grooves to the nagging stream of consciousness that seeks to question the internal dialogue, interrupted by dissociated voices.

Opening with the gentle, drifting beginnings of Go Now (Don’t Look Back) the album is comprised of mostly short movements that, on the surface, speak their ideas and move on, making it a complex listen that denotes the feeling of an emotional and physical journey.

It’s Easy, influenced by the death of Ramic’s father is made of tinkling sounds, trippy beats and bass lines that bobble in and out of fleeting grooves which, when combined with the hip-hop stylings of later entry Melodie with its ‘Alright’ sample, gives What Tomorrow Brings a fusion between those jazz influences and a g funk vibe worthy of some of Dr Dre’s finest works.

Elsewhere Anaconda is washed with reverb and droning synth that clashes with the light treble, undulating like a titular snake, full of grace and menace while The Art Of Dying has a frenetic high-hat and entrancing deep bass lines.

In a similar way to Nine Inch Nails Ghosts, Arms And Sleepers manage to cram in a lot without it feeling particularly dense. Subtly building on layer after layer of sound, it feels gossamer light and airy, but that does a disservice to the amount of distance it travels.

This is an album, and an act, that has more in common with, and should appeal to fans of, Battles, and Mogwai rather than those looking for searing riffs, but it shares a kindred spirit in the quest for producing music that seeks to explore the human psyche through musical expression.

Plus, after you have had your face melted off by the Pelagic released Lo!’s The Gleaners, this is a pretty chilled out comedown.

Label: Pelagic Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden