Music is often used as therapy, but after the fact; typically, the composition process has already been completed. Marco Bonini’s hypnagogia (sleep paralysis) inspired him to write this album, an attempt to battle sleep disorders while offering them a strange soundtrack. If the disorders were demons, they would likely be placated by this reflective and beguiling work. Circadian Rhythm, Sleep Disorder sounds like monsters and mechanisms turning on a pillow. The album is superior to its sleep-themed peers in that it retains its sharper edges instead of sloughing them off to create restfulness. Instead, it revels in its ability to prod and tumble, like nervous impulses or nagging thoughts, preventing the very state it yearns to reach.
One need not suffer from a sleep disorder to experience sleep deprivation; insomnia and noise pollution affect us all. When composing, Bonini attempted to drown the sounds of Rome by donning headphones. Still, in the quieter moments, the outside world managed to intrude. His tracks are a sonic diary of sleep struggle. At times, patterns repeat and lull, mimicking the healthier cycles of sleep; but then an unusual distraction – glitch, crunch, scratch – enters to unfasten the blanket. This inability to settle into a comfortable position grants the music a coppery allure, the tongue turning to distaste as the thoughts refuse to subside and the hallucinations begin. Nothing here is settled; nothing is complete. And yet, by delving deep into suggestions of cause and cure, Bonini mines something of worth. Like a witness creating a sketch of a culprit, he creates a sonic drawing of his own tormenter. If it’s not enough to soothe the artist, it’s at least enough to send a shock of recognition through others, who may feel isolated by their conditions.
The sound of the album is electronic, due to the processing of guitar through a bed of glitch. This lends the music a slightly unhinged quality, as source and sample draw close enough to be mistaken as twins. Layers of unusual noises haunt the outskirts like the chains of Dickens’ ghost. If there will be no sleep tonight, by God there will still be productivity. ”Irregular Sleep Wake” travels through phases of melody before entering the realm of abstraction. ”Delayed Sleep Phase” conjures images of a thumb piano played by a mischievous night gnome, who turns to stove pipes and cowbells after two minutes just to be sure no one will be getting any sleep. At the midpoint of “Suprachiamastic Nucleus”, static yowls like a feral cat on a splintered fence.
The personal nature of this work adds to its power, but even without the backstory, Bonini’s output as Ubik has never seemed so focused. The artist has turned a page in his discography; oddly, his enemy has become his muse. (Richard Allen)