Sleevenotes‘ brand of post-rock owes a debt to The Echelon Effect and The American Dollar: major key melodies that dip ebullience in a sauce of melancholy. Like The Echelon Effect, Sleevenotes is one man (Brad Couture), whose multi-tracking lends the artist the impression of a band.
The Pain of Nostalgia deserves to be heard in twain with Couture’s 2013 EP We Are Mostly Made of Nothing. The consistency of the cover images is a clear invitation to consider the two as one. The EP’s opening selection contains a single sung line: “If I did it again, I don’t know why I’d take back what movements made me grow, or what deeds pushed me back.” The struggle between two opposing forces – looking forward and looking back – continues throughout the EP and spills onto the album, culminating in a soft, short, spoken word reprise, during which the artist speaks of closure. Not that listening is therapy – during the many crescendos, it’s instantly uplifting – but the composition process was clearly therapeutic, and a sense of gratitude shines through the music like crinkled light through cracked blinds. This artist has lived his pain and earned his transcendence. And while the disclosure of the album’s final piece may seem like a classic overshare, it’s also a bold expression: one beggar telling another where to find bread.
The piano and synthesized string lines of the album’s intro produce the twinned anticipation hinted at in the EP: moving forward, looking back. Literary references abound, from Orpheus and Eurydice to Lot’s wife to the New Testament admonition about putting one’s hand to the plow. The past can kill us. Titles such as “We Cling to Memories” and “Kill the Thing You Love” hint at a need to cast one final look before striding in a new direction. To interpret the cover with an obvious metaphor, nostalgia is the water we must cross in order to reach the mountains.
Hopeful signs are apparent as early as “Sunset Rust”. It’s hard to hear bell tones and not to think of higher things. In a matter of minutes, the album’s first great crescendo arrives. It’s worth the swim. Now that this chapter in the artist’s life is over, we challenge him to begin a new musical chapter as well: to step out from the shadow of his influences and to develop a signature sound. At the same time, we recommend moving beyond the images of sun and clouds, mountains and sea ~ there’s a great big world out there, and the next peak is not far away. (Richard Allen)