Sleep of Reason is the debut album of British composer and producer Benjamin Stefanski (aka Raffertie) and showcases an impressive blend of soul, electronica, and the avant-garde. Raffertie has a distinct talent for creating atmosphere with each track of Sleep of Reason feeling like an exploration into a different corner of the same world. And this world feels fully fleshed out with constantly evolving layers of sound moving in and out of range. Only the beats are clear-cut, but even they tend to skitter and break in unexpected ways. “Undertow” gets the album off to an eerie start with muffled vocals and rumbling synthesizers, while “Rain” sees an R&B melody waver through a wash of reverb. “Build Me Up” combines soulful vocals with pulsing synths, giving it a strange and ghostly swagger, and “Gagging Order” feels like a remixed R&B tune with its choppy beats and melancholy piano. Most of the lyrics on Sleep are incomprehensible, but the melodies shine through, like the female vocals on “Principle Action.” “Black Rainbow” burns slowly until pounding drums and crunching guitars start to explode while an angry beat and a vocoder melody makes “Back of the Line” both beautiful and aggressive.
Everything about Sleep of Reason is dark and murky in a way that reminded of Ask the Dust by Lorn – one of my favorite albums from last year. But it does take a little while longer to warm up to Raffertie’s cold idiosyncrasies. Luckily, with its excellent production value and intricate layers, Sleep of Reason gives a listener plenty to explore and is worth sinking into multiple times. (Ninja Tune, ninjatune.net) Matthew Dyck