Boom. Click. Boom. Click. Boo-boom. Click. The deep, echoey groove of Phil Johnson’s percussive guitar loop lays out the patient first steps on Passages, the sophomore album from Pittsburgh trio Sleep Experiments. Soon, heavily tremoloed and washed-out guitars circle right and left as keyboardist and vocalist Morgan Stewart intones, “When I was a boy, I didn’t know what was important.” Looped beats introduce the next two tracks, a recurring motif that acts as a palate cleanser before the next plunge into an immersive sound world. Like the best of mid-’80s Kate Bush, Stewart’s alternately urgent and soft pleas fold in and out of the aural landscapes, pushing forward as a main melodic hook before dropping back into the fray.
It has taken Sleep Experiments, an outfit made up of Stewart, Johnson, and guitarist Phil Jacoby, a little while to find their niche in the local scene. “In the beginning, we struggled a bit to find our place,” says Stewart. “We played shows at Howlers when we were still a sitting-down band and some other shows that just absolutely did not make sense for what we were trying to do. All we saw around us was rock ‘n roll. That was hard for a little while. Then we started to see these other bands that were doing pretty beautiful work, and bands that are actually quite different from us, but [who] have a similar vision for music in the city. I feel like we’ve found a home at this point in time.”
[Disclosure: Sleep Experiments is a member of the music collective Golden Magnet, which my band Host Skull is also a member of.]
In anticipation of the release of Passages, I caught up with Morgan Stewart to discuss the band’s progression from their early three-guitar experiments and the artistic benefits of the trio’s tight friendship. Listen below.
Sleep Experiments will release their second album Passages on Friday, September 30 at 8:00 p.m. in the Ace Hotel Ballroom. The album will be available on the band’s Bandcamp page.