Sleepyvillain is the brainchild of Akila Fields, a songwriter and instrumentalist from Portland, Oregon whose resumé includes recording with the indie pop band Spy Island and playing keyboards on the road with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. As is often the case, Fields' own music finds him following a path noticeably different than those of his employers; Arithmetic is comprised of skeletal, keyboard-based tunes with simple, languid melodies, minimal and metronomic rhythmic accompaniment, and lyrics that often concern themselves with the difficult nature of human relationships. There's a foggy but unmistakable R&B undercurrent to these songs (especially when Fields' Spy Island bandmate Lucy Martin adds vocal accompaniment), but Sleepyvillain's relationship to soul is similar to the way Basehead's Michael Ivey spun a stoned web of sound out of the elements of hip-hop, aiming more for an emotional resonance than a structural similarity. Musically, Arithmetic is simple but deep, the elegance of the keyboards and percussion belying the beautiful ache of the melodies, while the occasional rough edges of Fields' vocals add a rumpled humanity to his thoughts on love's difficulties. At its best, Sleepyvillain recalls the three-a.m. ruminations of Low's Secret Name and Things We Lost in the Fire while using a very different palette of tonal colors to achieve its effects, and Fields has made something compelling and often moving out of these bummed-out meditations on love and longing. Arithmetic is a fine debut, and suggests this sideman may have a worthy career as a solo artist in his future.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming