The Little Brite EP from July 2009 showcased a not-quite-coalesced vision, but the full-length Houseboat, released only four months later, is a different story. Here, Bruce Blay and Joel North have enough time to develop fully their take on the post-rock genre, and enough studio savvy to incarnate their vision into a coherent set of songs and instrumentals. Foremost a violinist and a guitarist respectively, Blay and North focus on an acoustic sound. Their pieces are based on strings, some percussion, and vocals, to which are added lots of samples and digital treatments, mostly of the glitch-polluting kind, as a way to make song structures more fragile and add an element of unpredictability (which, sadly, is becoming more and more predictable in post-rock). The songs are short, emotive, occasionally gorgeous, and replete with violins and cellos, female vocals, etc. The music is also simple, one piece often being carried by a single motif, with the occasional 180-degree turn thrown in for contrast, but the arrangements are rich and multi-layered. This latter point is particularly well illustrated by "Green Echo" and "Light Tunnel," two pieces in which sheer beauty (the strings) and destabilization (glitchy electronics literally gnawing at the fabric of the music) complement each other. A lot on Houseboat will sound familiar to post-rock aficionados, with partial comparisons to Sigur Rós, Balmorhea, Below the Sea, and Explosions in the Sky all making sense. However, Sleep Whale have developed their own sound, and in the case of this album, they make it work.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture