The cover image of Long Beard’s debut album, Sleepwalker, is a single yellow and orange hued lampshade in the foreground with silhouetted trees and the final moments of dusk in the background. The lampshade, under closer examination, is decorated with paisleys and floral patterns. The twilit night is starless yet clear as the final tinges of light are washed out of the sky. These elements, when laid out side by side, do a pretty good job of presenting a visual representation of what the debut album from Leslie Bear, aka, Long Beard is about. That is to say, there’s a limited palette at work on this album, these songs and the instruments assembled to articulate their beauty employ a strict sense of what is permissible and avoid what will only muddy the contrasts and moods.
In this sense, the orange and the paisley are Leslie’s hypnotic and drifting vocal style. The blacks and the blues are the guitar tones and rhythm section employed by producer Chris Daly the band (Devin Silvers on bass and Stefan Koekemoer on drums). Calculated to a degree that’s reminiscent of early Kranky Records acts like Labradford, Magnog or Bowery Electric as well as the constructions of groups like The Pale Saints, Cat’s Miaow or Lush, the sonic restrictions present on Sleepwalker make it singular in vision and thus intense to the ear. It spooks, it grows cold, it lifts up with tremendous beauty and then it turns so dim it becomes impossible to discern from the sounds of night.
This is the result of Leslie Bear’s four year journey to make the album, crafting songs from her home in New Brunswick NJ but avoiding the final execution until the rules of the album were articulate and of a singular vision. The Long Beard debut touches lyrically on themes that one often associates with the transition into adulthood in modern America: growing apart from those you were once close to, premature nostalgia and a sense of time passing, how seasons and cycles create the clock of poetry and song despite the modern world’s efforts to extinguish this timeless truth.
It’s day and night, light and dark, the loud and the quiet, the lush and the colorless; these are the ingredients that result in one of the year’s most beautiful and mesmerizing releases. Making the point that less is more, it does so not by employing minimalism, but rather by finding the perfect guitar tone, the perfect vocal effect and the perfect song and adding those elements to the mix while ignoring the temptation to flower it up with anything more. Disciplined and focused, Sleepwalker is the record you play when twilight is upon you, when night has set and you find yourself alone and witness to the dramatic and profound beauty of a simple phenomenon like the end of a day or the soft glow of an electric bulb.
Long Beard’s Sleepwalker is out on LP and digitally on Team Love Records October 23, 2015.
A limited edition cassette tape version of the album will be released October 17, 2015.