Recorded from the mid- to late-'90s, Sleep Now Forever finds the duo of Rose McDowall and Robert Lee in fine creative health. Starting with the flowing a cappella overdubs that begin "Soldier," McDowall's still wondrous voice acting as melody and as texture, Sleep Now Forever is neither simply acid-folk contemplation nor modern pop record but something entrancing, in its own universe. (That it missed out on the attention that the 'New Weird America' pseudo-scene gave to such music in later years is an unfortunate accident of timing.) The sense of hooks that McDowall showed herself to be a queen of in earlier years has hardly left, even if delivered at slower paces, while her voice seems to have gained in richness, while Lee's understated guitar accompaniment is a perfect foil. The Asian-sounding drones on "Love Dies" and the simple but spot-on echoing notes starting "Epiphany" are two fine examples among many. The additional instrumentalists, including uilleann pipers and cellists, add a gentle richness throughout -- the album is neither spare nor overblown, but a glazed, careful balance, a full-sounding record at all turns. "Haunting" lives up to its name perfectly, a cascade of keyboard and ambient textures that feels like a gentle rise to the heavens, mysteriously beautiful. At times there's almost something suggestive of the mood of late-'60s melancholic pop -- Nancy Sinatra, say -- translated into Sorrow's particular setting, making songs like "October Faul" all the more inspired. For all the aural beauty there can be dark subjects lyrically -- not perhaps all that surprising from the World Serpent-affiliated cycle of bands, but songs like "Turn Off the Light," a rejection of a person -- or a god? -- and the title track, bidding farewell to a dying individual, have their own power. If there's a small downside to the album it's that it's so much of a constant musical mood piece that individual songs ultimately stand out less than the overall experience -- but a fine one that is.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett