by Shawn Gakhal
Mathew Sawyer, a British musician and artist, hails from Hammersmith, England. His former band, Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts, has released two albums Blue Birds Blood and How Snakes Eat. His third album, Sleep Dreamt A Brother, released on Fire Records, is a solo effort, which finds Sawyer expounding on the vital themes of life and death. In addition to his successful music career, Sawyer’s art has, also, been featured in many art galleries and group exhibitions. He even designed the artwork for this album. But, what about the music? Well, there’s good news on that front, too. Normally, when an artist trying to sing and play guitar, it usually raises a few eyebrows, but Sawyer, adequately, pulls it all off with supreme confidence.
The sound of footsteps open up the titular song, “New Bird to Be” as a folk-inspired orchestra coincides with acoustic guitars. It all feels very medieval—something that belongs on the Game of Thrones. I don’t know—something like that. “Feeeeling” groans replete with bass drums, hi-hats, and a simple piano melody. Sawyer wails in the background. The song features a distortion of voices, as many of heard—in small snippets, just for a fleeting moment. “Feeeeling” is, to be perfectly honest, haunting.
“Don’t Tell the Others What We Were Singing” features a mix-mash of beautiful harmonies coalescing with instruments, such as the piano, acoustic guitars and plentiful orchestras vying for the spotlight. One thing about folk/acoustic albums that’s frustrating is over singing. It almost gets to the point where it’s hard to make it what the words are because they’re unintelligible or wrapped in walls of sonic reverb. Sawyer, on the other hand, has a pleasant voice—one that I could listen to for days on end (think: conversational voice). Also, every word he enunciates is with clarity, as to be assured that no one could ever mistake his most earnest of intentions.
“The Forgetting Head” has an absolute gorgeous production sound on its acoustic guitar. The riff is, simply, terrific. Sawyers pontificates on death for a cursory moment, as he croons, “Whether I’ll be dead / Going my own way.” The one thing I didn’t particularly like about the song was the muffled, deep baritone voice, accompanying Sawyer throughout the journey. It is just so, unnecessary, as Sawyer is more than capable of carrying a track on his own.
“Sleep Dreamt a Brother” hits the trifecta with acoustic, guitars, boisterous orchestras and dark pianos. Obviously, it’s easy to see that Sawyer favors these instruments, but he puts them to great use—each nuance and detail of them are carefully placed in each song with deft touch. “Death Is Like A Dream We’ll Have” finds Sawyer touching, again, on the painful of death amidst whirling pianos and somber, string ensembles. However, you can’t tell or sparse between the strife in his voice or tone, as the song is pacific. The time signatures and pace for this song is markedly different than the others. Well, there’s the inclusion of drums, for instance. Parts of the song almost veer into straight on folk. You almost wish every song on the album were like this.
“Another World” is a great song. The song is, mainly, an exercise in Sawyer’s patience, as he could have easily made this song his own through personal voice. Instead, he almost takes a post-folk like take on the song, inserting voice mail messages are interspersed throughout the song filtered through idyllic pianos and sentimental strings to give the song a certain type of nostalgic ambiance.
All in all, Sawyer’s Sleep Dreamt A Brother is a promising next step in his career. The album feels like two different ones, wrapped in one package—the first part is dreary, the second being more buoyant, rose-colored even. Once Sawyer finds his footing in folk aesthetic, he’ll be more comfortable and willing to change against the current, instead of with it. As with anything, practice makes perfect. With Sawyer, the formula is there—it just needs more tweaking to realize it’s most August of intentions.