After a three year wait, Montreal-based folk/rock band, The Barr Brothers have finally released their second album Sleeping Operator. With the use of instruments such as the marimba, ngoni and the cardboardium (your guess is as good as mine), this album is both uniquely crafted and complex.
The Barr Brothers, comprised of Andrew and Brad Barr, Sarah Page and Andres Vial, offer an unpretentiously refreshing take on folk with heavier bass and North African-style drumming. Yet somehow, through all the low frequencies, the Canadian quartet still paint shimmering highs on their songs. Part of that could be the sporadic harp sequences they employ, reminding us that we are visitors in their dream world.
The first track, “Static Orphans” is a nosedive into that dream world. The music is like a warm sip of mystical tea. Think Alice in Wonderland but without that terrifying cat.
The end of the short intro slides into a perfectly camouflaged transition to “Love Ain’t Enough” where we are introduced to gentle vocals. The rolling tempo and campfire guitar in “Wolves” and “Even the Darkness Has Arms” are where the band’s folk roots come to play. That leads into a hip-swaying jaunt in “Come in the Water,” an enjoyable dance number to balance the album. The light-hearted fun ends and we enter a more mournful and poetic side in “How the Heroine Dies,” the most emotionally piercing track on the album.
The first half of Sleeping Operator is comprised of soaring melodies and transcendental vocals. But you get that from any Fleet Foxes album. What makes this a distinct record is the second half, where heavy drumming and bluesy grooves enter the soundscape. “Half Crazy” is a song that could easily be heard on an early Black Keys album, or even an episode of Breaking Bad. However, The Barr Brothers make sure to carry you back into their more gentle side with “Please Let Me Let it Go,” a hypnotic finale to Sleeping Operator, bringing the album full circle.
Intimate and soothing rhythms paired with Americana rock and blues influences give Sleeping Operator a sound that’s difficult to pin down. However, it is an extremely unique record with a variety of sound and genres so you are always left feeling pleasantly surprised. But be forewarned: Sleeping Operator may induce some intense soul-searching.
You can catch The Barr Brothers playing with Bahamas in Toronto on November 5th at the Danforth Music Hall.