Experimental dream pop folkies Long Beard deliver a mixed bag of songs that range from charmingly ethereal lullabies to repetitive reverse tape loop oddities on their first full length album Sleepwalker. More a vehicle for singer-songwriter Leslie Bear than a proper band, Long Beard features the aforementioned Bear on vocals and guitar, Devin Silvers on bass, and Stefan Koekemoer on drums.
After a brief introduction consisting of backward distorted guitar played over delicate oohs and ahs, the record opens properly with a song reminiscent of Yo La Tengo at their most mellow titled “Porch”. With its reverb-heavy lilting vocals, gorgeous bridge, and soaring chorus, “Hates the Party” follows and is by far Sleepwalker’s finest moment. The record’s first handful of songs is completed with “Summer Fall” and “Turkeys”, two tracks that aren’t nearly as compelling as their predecessors.
Other than an out-of-sync, shy clicking noise that accompanies the album’s centerpiece “Dream”, Long Beard confusingly abandon all percussive elements for the entire second half of the record. A risky move considering Koekemoer’s drums worked so well to keep the trio’s largely reverberant sound grounded during the first half.
The album’s troubled middle and final third grouping of songs find Long Beard running out of tricks as their tired reverse tape loop technique continues to worm its way through the majority of tracks. Sleepwalker recovers somewhat during the penultimate song “Days of Heaven”. The lovely folk track has Bear beautifully singing thoughtful sentiments like, “Lost my love to a salty sea, how I wished it would swallow me.”
There’s no doubt Sleepwalker would have been better served if sequenced differently. The album’s earliest songs featuring Koekemoer’s drums should have been dispersed more evenly, thereby offsetting the droning experimental moments by intermittently bringing the listener back to solid footing. Instead this task ends up being the sole responsibility of Leslie Bear’s hauntingly exquisite vocals. While Bear’s abundant talents do help rescue a portion of the mundane meanderings of Sleepwalker’s problematic second half, it’s an unfair burden and ultimately not enough to create a balanced work.