Monday 9 February 2015

Review of 'Sleeping Tapes' by Jeff Bridges

Ever wanted to go hand-gliding with Jeff Bridges through Temescal Canyon? Now you can.

Some of you will know Jeff Bridges for his lead role in blockbusters such as The Big Lebowski and Tron. Some of you won't know him, but that's your problem.

Out of the blue, the Hollywood actor and practising Buddhist has decided to drop a surprise album entitled Sleeping Tapes. It consists of ambient music composed by Keefus Ciancia (who Wikipedia tells me has helped score movies such as Spiderman 2 and Superbad) layered with soothing spoken-word narrations from Jeff himself, the overall aim of the album being to help insomniacs get some shuteye.

When approaching this album, I decided I would listen to it in its intended environment. I waited until I was snuggled up in my bed with my teddy bear and night-light. I plugged my earphones in and pressed play, closed my eyes and waited patiently for the effects to take place. Would this album send me to sleep as it was designed to do?

Sadly not.

Sleeping Tapes failed its mission.  It didn’t help me get to sleep. If anything it made me more awake, so awake that I felt compelled to stay up an extra hour and write this review.

This record is hilariously entertaining and impressively vivid. Rambling at the listener, Jeff takes his audience through various beautiful and intensely intimate scenarios. He takes the listener hand-gliding, makes you wave at a stranger named Neil and lets you share a cottage with him by the sea. He reads poetry to you and describes how when he dies he would like to be turned into a satellite. He even spends an entire track building up the listener with compliments. He told me I have 'strong hands, capable of woodworking' and that he likes my hair. 

After listening to this record, I really felt like I knew Jeff Bridges and that he knew me and that we'd just experienced something wonderful together. This is more than I can say with most albums. Jeff's comforting voice and the accompanying instrumentation do well at putting the listener under a spell. Sadly, there are jarring weird moments that take the listener out of this spell, moments so jarringly weird that the record instantly becomes impossible to fall asleep to.

For instance what the hell is going on in the second track? The creepy distorted vocals did nothing but convince me not to fall asleep in case I ended up in a Jeff-Bridges-inspired nightmare. Other notably inappropriate moments include the eerie downward chromatic humming on ‘Hummmmmm’, the blast of thunder in 'The Raven' and the description of Jeff’s toilet cistern filling up on the last track.

Some albums aim to entertain but are so uneventful they send the listener to sleep. Ironically, Sleeping Tapes aims to send the listener to sleep but ends up being so eventful through its sheer comical bizarreness that it entertains.

Does Jeff really want his listeners to fall asleep? I can not help but feel that by adding these clearly abrupt and freaky moments into the tracklist that there is a twang of self-parody going on here .

The record ends with Jeff reminding the listener that it was all done for charity, with donations going directly to No Kid Hungry. He then suggests to anyone that has failed to fall asleep that they repeat the album. By this point, I was so in love with Jeff, so lured in by his eccentric world that I almost did just that. Very rarely do I have these feelings after listening to a whole LP. This can only indicate that Sleeping Tapes is a great album.

In fact, I'd give it a score, but I'm not sure if I can categorise this wholly as music. It's deeper than that. You feel it rather than hear it. I recommend it heartily.

Stream the whole thing for free here. Sweet dreams. 'You order well at restaurants'.