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Sleep in a Synchrotron

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    8
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Technology, affordability, delicacy -- the hallmark of many artists able to go ahead and record whatever they wanted wherever they wanted towards the 20th century's end, and to do so without having to feel the need to rock out. Ryuji Tsuneyoshi falls squarely into this category, as his lovely Sleep in a Synchrotron album demonstrates. Eight tracks long, featuring guest vocalists throughout but otherwise all him, Sleep finds an attractive intersection point between Aphex Twin's bedroom meditations (minus the heavy duty weirdness) and the Magnetic Fields' rough, low-key beauties. Shuffling beats, softly plucked guitar and piano, buried, slightly distorted singing, and more call to mind a sweet, lovely soundscape. As opposed to the defiantly '60s retro-isms of many neo-winsome pop bands of the '90s, Sleep seems to progress more from the likes of New Order and a clean, crisp mid-'80s feel, understating wherever possible. Tsuneyoshi's sense of arrangement is charmingly, beautifully elegant and melancholy; one example is the mid-song verse of "Sad Grey Sky," whose muffled rhythms, low, reverbed guitars, string synths, and singer Aiko's soft, half-whispered work come together just so. Then there's the relentless but still calm drive of the title track, danceable and relaxing all at once, and the concluding "Lullaby," a sweet, wistful instrumental that lives up to its name, drum machines and all. "Stars Above You" starts the album and is a charming wonder, a slow sonic progression that takes its own pace and time to unfold. An interesting diversion appears four tracks in with the one cover on the album -- Lou Reed's glam anthem/ballad "Satellite of Love." The pace initially remains the same, but a quicker dance beat emerges with the second verse, all while keeping the weirdly dreamy atmosphere of the original song via acoustic guitars and other soft touches.

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