From its first ten seconds, Night Verses‘ From The Gallery Of Sleep is a beckoning call down into the earth that blurs reality with imagination. A voice in our heads couples with erratic yet impressive beats, echoing “We don’t know who we are. We don’t know where we are.” The album opener “Copper Wasp” is fierce and intriguing from its introduction.
I’m intimidated before I’ve even begun my review, due to every piece of music I’ve heard from the LA trio of Nick DePirro (guitar), Reilly Herrera (bass), and Aric Improta (drums) being more fittingly described as ‘art’ than ‘song’. Forming in 2012, From The Gallery Of Sleep is the third full-length album from the band, and is the first without vocalist Douglas Robinson who departed in September 2017. The album’s Haulix stream came to me for review without a press release or any press-tastic hype-speak at all, seeming perfectly apt for my impression of Night Verses sans vocalist: The music was to speak for itself.
Album opener “Copper Wasp” zigs and zags, punching heartily at times in an otherwise steadily unfolding progression of sound. The track was previously released as a single and part of a three track EP (Copper Wasp), which I assume was a testing of the waters for the band before the full length release. The guitar intensity on this track, which reaches points of blowing away everything else around it, is commanding in itself as well as stage-setting for more ethereal and humble soundscapes to come in, with their beautiful and intriguing forms.
Bass tones combined with chimes speak of more to come though, and an ass-kicker of a riff and thunderous beats is the extremely satisfying ‘more’. I get the impression that if someone wasn’t already into this song, that the section at 3:00 would win them over. It’s at this point of “Copper Wasp” where guitar taking flight adds to the impressiveness, and I sat back and wondered what it might feel like to be so instrumentally skilled.
Hollow-sounding anticipation is what leads us into the second track “Trading Shadows”. The bass warmth and Morse Code-like rhythms tapped out and metallic waves courtesy of cymbals suggest that there’s something waiting around the corner. A looped riff and skipping rhythm takes us into the chaos of that promised storm, accented by drum blasts and multi-level riff leaps.
Though grooving and more at ease at times, the persistence of percussion in “Trading Shadows” keeps the listener on alert, and complexity comes as expected. The aforementioned persistence bleeds into percussive experimentation, with beeps and eclectic taps blending with steady and melodic guitar, warmly flooding the space. Stand-out guitar pulls focus above the percussion and it wheels and turns sharply in winged flight. Angular downward forces pull everything together where distorted riffs echo. Soon amplified and blackened, it’s a stomping and determined assertion, before hollow taps and skin-crawling waves of experimentation close the track. But not before one last gasp.
“Vice Wave” seems more gentle and otherworldly than its album mates so far. Exploring and tumbling at first, we’re soon pushed in changing directions. With subtle warnings, a fierce interjection finally breaks through the shoving and takes us by the hand into an electric, well-lit space and we’re seeing more of the inner workings of life with greater clarity. Bass ripples, released like electromagnetic pulse calls searching for fellow living beings, have a guitar response and a conversation before the walls of conformity are all but ripped apart by their joining forces and oppressive heaviness. In the dust of fierce strength we watch it all fall down.
“Her eyes are always open. She does not let me sleep.”
Alluring in the simplicity of its hands-to-drum-skin introduction, fourth track “Vantablonde” soon reveals more of its complexity in unpredictable rhythmic loops and lighter layers that reveal themselves in amongst the hectic strength. Brute forces from all fronts paint destructive pictures with wild accents and the assertion of space by the drums. With the closing audio clip of “We don’t believe in pure illusionism”, I’m left incredibly curious about the intention of Night Verses and these soundscapes they’re crafting.
I’m still in wonderment mode when “Lira” begins, with something steady and breezy and I let it play out around me and through my ears and in my head. This album and its tracks seem to be invitations to step outside of our normal means of existing and into something else, where it’s less about hard edges of fact and more about fluid possibility and asking questions about what we think we know. The relatively unchallenging and easy vibe and sound of the beautiful “Lira” was gratefully enjoyed as a breath-catching, thought-flowing pause.
Looped use of impactful questions (“Tell me this: What do you think will happen when you die?” “Are you a good person?”) gives an intense feel to “No Moon” from its beginning. The questions exist in a soundscape of poignant chimes, with an undercurrent of seriousness that’s felt before it’s heard. Riffs dance and float, before choppy conditions make for more of a scrambling to keep one’s head up as opposed to being carried along in float.
The sound quality of From The Gallery Of Sleep has to be commended for the depth of sonic information that’s being shared. It is Will Putney, who has worked on albums for Thy Art Is Murder, Vein, Counterparts, Stray From The Path, Northlane, and more, who produced and mixed the album for Night Verses. With good headphones on, there’s a moment around 3:30 of “No Moon” that you can practically taste, given how true-to-life and immersive it feels. With this it’s easy to feel ‘egged on’ by the hectic beats, on edge from the bass, and as though we’re teetering on the brink from the guitar. Combined, it’s a sense of being in danger, where the escape is into something unknown and daunting.
Momentarily lighter and free-er, the vocalisations and barely there touches of sound erase the pull of gravity and see us suspended; an escape unlike what we thought was possible. Not falling, not hurt, not dead (?).
“Who are you?”
It’s amazing how easily I am prey to these glittering soundscapes Night Verses have crafted; effortlessly being transported from place to place, state to state, nightmare to dream. “Glitch In The You I Thought I Knew” is a suspended-in-time and lightness of being moment of intimacy, curiosity, and possibility. Is the unknown figure an angel, darkness, a mirage, anything? Where do we exist in time or space? The questioning track flows transparently and openly, all the way through to it’s full stop of an end. At this halfway point of the album, I’m enjoying this trip of an adventure and its blurred edged and multifaceted appearance, despite typically leaning on the emotion and meaning shared lyrically.
“No. 0” is a vicious dive into relentlessness, and sees us deftly dodging attacks coming at us from all angles. Blistering drums soon add crushing weight to the scene; painted by angular stepping down via guitar that’s at times warm and at others punishing. It feels as though we’re being taken somewhere and having to push against limits in the process. Once we arrive, gentle light pulses are there as we survey the landscape before us, coming face to face with what’s being presented.
The bass is what draws my attention as “No. 0” continues, steadily unfolding its riff as the chaos ensues from all other elements; eclectic sound samples and beats, and and guitar wildness.
Out of time and tucked inside another dimension is where we exist with “Balboa”. The looped melodies and reversed-sounding ‘weirdness’ have this track feel fairly eerie, which is soon reinforced by a jangling or clicking percussion and looming guitar presence. It’s a flowing and liquid track and I lose myself in the bass for awhile until it disappears and percussion is left. It’s actually very warm and zen, despite the eeriness. Given that the album title is From The Gallery Of Sleep, it makes sense to me that each one of these songs could be an experience of sleeping and dreaming.
Guitar athleticism grabs my full attention with “Earthless”, hit home by steadfast drumming, and rounded out by ethereal tones. Night Verses seem to have the knack of presenting something and revealing deeper layers beyond that just when you think you’ve consumed it all. Mystique added by electronic samples, “Earthless” is driving and onward moving at first, when drops into pockets of silence herald a more spacious and suspended existence. Crystalline light beams bouncing over darkened surfaces are an unnerving and intriguing pairing.
Feeling like I’m running out of new and interesting ways to describe Night Verses’ sound and the intricacies of each, it’s a pleasure to just ‘hang out’ with these songs and let them lead me where they go. Rifftastic aggression took me from chaos to (cautious) serenity over the track’s 6:21 length.
Intriguing from its title alone, “Harmonic Sleep Engine”‘s clean guitar might be considered playful if not for the weight that lingers in the shadows of it. The beautiful piece of music shares its tumbling intricacy regardless and the ‘voice’ of the guitar is yearning and wondering. Despite whatever darkness exists, onward it treads, with gentle beats holding its hand. Echoing chords leave the message/request/questions suspended in the air.
The larger than life “Phoenix IV: Levitation” brings the goods. The track is the fourth of the band’s ongoing series relating to the mythical bird who rises from the ashes (the first two were included as one track “Phoenix: I. Rising II. Falling” on the 2013 album Lift Your Existence and the third was “Phoenix III: Into The Vanishing Light” on 2016’s Into The Vanishing Light). Each of the tracks has proven to be an exploration of around 10 minutes at the close of the album.
“I’d like to find out what reality I’m in”
Having absorbed all three, the present incarnation seems sonically freed by not having to share focus with vocals, giving room for watery and wavery yet punishing guitar accents. Even when the intensity ebbs and a fog sets in, focus is still easily maintained by this determined and searching track, where chimes and zips are just as at home as barrages of sound.
Expanding and intensifying to the point of distortion, the flames then die down to glowing embers at around the 6 minute mark. A gentle surrendering and space for breathing is created, and contemplation breathes new life into powerful form and unbreakable strength.
It’s instantly curious to me why Night Verses placed “Infinity Beach” last on the album; a very obvious decision, given the usual finality of the phoenix series throughout the band’s history. The loose and languid piece of music is a relaxed close to the album as opposed to ending with a sonic punch. But do not assume that this means that it is ineffectual. To me it shares a potent message. Firstly, I’m moved by the soundbite used at the introduction of the track:
“But when it comes to making music, it’s a kind of cave-like culture. Where it doesn’t really matter where you are, because you go within the infrastructure of your mind and your imagination.”
This power of music (whether creator or listener) has been clearly showcased on From The Gallery Of Sleep. The thirteen tracks before “Infinity Beach” have also cemented the point that music can speak or inspire clearly without words, and are subsequently invitations to go within in response to what is heard or felt. The track also reinforces the ripple like waves of sound, energy, light, vibration, and intention, seeming to point directly toward the possibility that has been created in these pieces for our own unique experiences and explorations. The title seems to be a play on the infinite nature of the ripples we’re creating.
I feel like while the absence of a vocalist on From The Gallery Of Sleep has been an obviously significant shift for Night Verses, it has been one they have confronted and surpassed, creating something breathtaking in the face of the perceived hurdle. World class instrumentation is impressively showcased here, in a dream land of artfully painted soundscapes. Each track is an experience in itself worthy of time and attention, with the pay-off being the inner world unlocked by these thirteen keys.
World class instrumentation. Artfully painted soundscapes, spanning from daydream to nightmare.
For my personal approach to absorbing music, it'll take time for each piece to stamp its sonic signature upon me, without the relatively easy anchor of a repeated vocal chorus. This is a very minor point, given the prowess of the album.