The Dublin-based band Sleep Thieves are a very different proposition from the one that appeared three years ago, so much so that their debut album Heart Waves seems, from cursory searches to have been erased from many of the online stores that once carried it, either by choice or by expiration.
Sleep Thieves in 2014 sound unlike that incarnation of the band, so much so that we can take You Want The Night, on its own merits. Starting with 2012’s excellent EP Islands, Sorcha Brennan, Wayne Fahy and Keith Byrne hit on a sound that they have since wrapped themselves in, a glittering canvas of disco-noir synthesizer and digital production.
Across ten tracks and 38 minutes on You Want The Night, the stylistic sound suits them well. The album can run a little too close to sounding too inspired by contemporaries like Johnny Jewel and Austra: artists who delve into the darkness through electronic arrangements that often come with an aural cue to look over your shoulder.
Brennan’s vocals have a sashaying celestial quality to them that wasn’t there before and it’s central to the album’s appeal – a bed of turbulent low-end anchors the feminine high-range she utilises, as on ‘City Of Hearts’ and ‘Oceans’ for example. Brennan isn’t a match for the operatic vibrato of Katie Stelmanis and while the vocal range is admirable, it does invite those comparisons.
Elsewhere, as on the title track, Fahy provides the voice of the mutated: pitched-down vocals add to the eerie feel, a technique plucked from Fever Ray and more recently, Purity Ring.
When the arrangements unpeel themselves from the template, Sleep Thieves add some depth. ‘Ishimura’ revels in the slow air of some hypnotic synth meandering as does the malevolent tones of ‘Tusk’.
There is enough substance here to suggest that Sleep Thieves are heading in the right direction. There is atmosphere and cinema conjured in the arrangements of songs like ‘Sparks’, ‘Oceans’ and ‘Ishimura’. The three-piece have immersed themselves in a electro-noir sheen and You Want The Night has given them a necessary focus. Now it’s time for Sleep Thieves to find their own place in it.
The album is out now on Minty Fresh Records.