By: Sam Birkett
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Released on June 15, 2015 via Big Scary Monsters
For anyone invested in math rock and its band of merry genres, Delta Sleep are already a significant name, or at least a significantly excited whisper in any breeze around the many towns and fields that have witnessed them absolutely kill the proverbial ‘it’ on stage. They are rare performers who’s playing looks completely intuitive, but sounds like the musical cousin of Pi: an endless stream of complexity that thrills a different, but not entirely unrelated breed of geek. Their second EP, Management, released in 2013, contains the body of work that they have mostly been playing live until the composition of Twin Galaxies; this, the meaty song lengths and its overall quality has granted it the treatment of a full album by fans – it’s a proven success.
Their debut LP Twin Galaxies doesn’t just deliver more of the same, however, even though Delta Sleep could happily have trotted out an LP full of Management-esque cuts and their fans would have consumed it with 10,000 spoons. This is not to say that it is a huge departure – there is plenty here for fans to love and recognise – but they playfully push at the corners of their style, with poppier hooks, heavier riffs and some gorgeous teasers of their extension into electronic textures.
Opener ‘Uncle Ivan’ is a perfect example of this – tight, fierce and insanely catchy, it is at once familiar and excitingly new, and is an example of one of the band’s songwriting magicks: an ability to effortlessly shift from pit-inducing ferocity to heart-tightening tenderness, all while staying within the same lyrical narrative.
That narrative is a good’un, too: ‘Uncle Ivan’ marks the beginning of an allegorical story of a man who finds himself suddenly lost at sea, his house and life submerged in water. Understandably upset, he encounters a “giant squid-like beast” in his travels, who rather amiably greets him: “Hey you, what are you doing sailing these waters?” In a dryly humorous but softly moving response, the man replies “If you’re gonna eat me, no need to be friendly. I’m so weak, it won’t take me long to break.” This loose narrative continues throughout the album, with aquatic themes throughout as the narrator deals with loss and the memory of love. This consistent theme makes these breakup songs far from generic, especially when combined with the beautiful simplicity of the lyrics; besides one cringe-inducing reference to breasts as “those things on your chest,” they are unanimously moving.
Fortunately for that particular line, it comes on lead single ‘Lake Sprinkle Sprankle,’ a wonderfully nostalgic affair full of reminiscences both sweet and bitter, and music to match. It is more spacious than ‘Uncle Ivan,’ with delicious, loose basslines, characteristically manic drumming and grin-inducing guitars twisting along happily in their own lanes, but also merging with ease.
Pushing the progress boat into near-uncharted waters for the band is ‘Spy Turtles,’ in which we catch a full-song glimpse of the beast that Delta Sleep have hinted at in interludes and production touches. Swimming in a sea of ambient, 8-bittish synths, guitars bubble around delicate vocals that look back through a porthole at a relationship, the narrator “spotting [his partner] for sharks in the shadows of the rocks.” It is one of the most notable moments in the album, a kind of dream vision of a future Delta Sleep and of a past life, and it’s pretty gorgeous.
‘Daniel Craig David’ and ’21 Letters’ are the closest relatives to Management tracks, and deliver as expected on the complexity and melody of the EP. It’d be a huge stretch to call them disappointing, as they’re not, they’re great, but it is hard to compare them to the fantastic development in other tracks and not miss that element of exciting innovation. However, this is barely a sliver of an issue – they are excellent tracks – and I’ll seem a turd for saying it.
Any glimmers of disappointment are obliterated by Twin Galaxies’ one-two punch closer: blistering instrumental ‘Hungry for Love’ and future singalong banger ‘Strongthany.’ They form as perfect an ending as one could wish for in that they also work as an enticing beginning: I challenge you to listen to Twin Galaxies front to back and not go round once, twice, or thrice more.
Twin Galaxies is both the album we needed and the album we deserved from Delta Sleep: they deliver on what they are already loved for, but don’t allow that to block the exciting new currents that they are heading down with their music. It is both a satisfying fulfilment of what has already come to pass and the seeds of what is still to come, and I for one can’t wait for an album (and possibly franchise, complete with children’s cartoons and plush toys) launched from the back of ‘Spy Turtles.’