Beauty can be a controversial topic, especially when it comes to avant-garde music. Hitting too directly, it can be perceived as sickly sentimental or vapid -- avatars of popular music and its recipes to make the common denominator sigh. Too mannered or buried under the processes of an elaborate artistic approach, it loses its characteristics to become only an intellectualized vision of what beauty should be. Mike Adcock and Clive Bell have avoided all these pitfalls and created music that anyone with an open mind will agree is beautiful, although most people may find it highly unusual. Sleep It Off features the two of them performing on an array of free reed instruments, ethnic instruments, and small objects. Accordion, harmonica, and shakuhachi (a Japanese flute) provide the core of the instrumentation, completed by prepared piano, Indian harmonium, khene, and pi saw. The choice of instruments changes with each piece and is kept to two or three at a time in most cases. Add to that a relatively short average duration and you get a collection of little gemstones of various colors. "Real Lakes" lets accordion and Thai khene (a Bamboo mouth organ) breathe in harmony to create a lush drone. Melodies arise in some pieces, expressing forms and feelings beyond time and cultures. If a couple of tracks are more difficult to the ear (like "Lullaby for Young Owls," featuring Bell on the "stereo goathorns," a screechy, mutated bagpipe), they only make the other pieces more soothing. Soothing, but by no mean easy or predictable. It requires involvement from the listener and it rewards in ways very different from more common free improvisation. This album is simply one of the most original and beautiful albums this reviewer has heard in 2002.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture