Deakin (Joshua Dibb) has always been the most elusive member of Animal Collective. While he co-founded the band, he frequently takes extended breaks from group activity, and he's only appeared on roughly half of their albums, with the group's 2009 breakthrough Merriweather Post Pavilion not being one of them. His debut solo release, Sleep Cycle, took a considerably long time to reach fruition, as he initially began crowdfunding the release in 2009. Ultimately, he ended up donating all of the proceeds to a charity benefiting enslaved Tuareg people in Mali, and the album ended up being self-funded. The result is a long-labored, intensely personal album that ends up coming far closer to earlier iterations of AC than their later, poppier, more crowd-friendly material. This isn't to say that it's a complete return to the sprawling, improvised freak-folk sound of Campfire Songs or Hollinndagain, but it doesn't resemble the sugar rush of albums like Painting With (which Deakin did not contribute to). Most of the album's six songs slowly unfold, layering atmospheric keyboards and guitars into calmly paced circular rhythms, sometimes joined by found sounds including crickets and splashing water. While much of the music isn't overtly ecstatic, the lyrics are certainly positive, expressing the joy of being alive and encouraging the listener to be brave. The album's most energetic song is "Footy," which features crashing drums by Dutch E Germ, wailing vocals, and a much fuller sound than the rest of the album. The album's shorter pieces are vocal-based experiments that sound as if they were recorded in a cave or from the bottom of a well. The short album feels fluid and fragile, but highly focused, letting decades' worth of energy and life experiences elegantly flow through, occasionally building up to a few supremely joyous moments.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson