Published Jan 15, 2020Having explored, over the years, shades of trip-hop, hip-hop, ambient and very subtle electropop, Arms and Sleepers (Max Lewis and Mirza Ramic) seem to have returned to an earlier sound pulsing with melancholic ambience on their ninth studio release.
Safe Area Earth is the first in a six-part series to be released throughout the year (three full-lengths and three EPs), a conceptual project based in part on the childhood and adolescence of Ramic and his years of continuous travel as a Bosnian refugee, with each release thematically focused on a facet of human life.
The album's title readily tells of a forthcoming narrative born from a place of trauma and terror, recounting the absurdity of "safe areas" during the Bosnian War. While Safe Area Earth leans heavily toward ambient sounds, it's also a distinctly different from prior releases that fall into the same genre — moody and atmospheric, while stripping back the heavily melodic bass that accentuates past work.
This release is cloaked in a fine static, and moves between evocative synth, free of beats, but haunting in the stretched vocals and low, underlying buzz ("Roman and Mayan," "Both But None"); and dark, heady efforts rife with a myriad of percussive elements and highly melodic synth work ("Give Me This," "After World's End"). With such a strong start to a series, one can only hope Arms and Sleepers continue to surprise with their output. (Future Archive)