“In The Gardens of the North” is the Bella Union debut of Sleeping States, a work of startling beauty and originality and one of the most beguiling releases of 2009.
Sleeping States is the musical project of Bristol-based Markland Starkie, a uniquely talented artist who has been boldly evolving and flowering for the past few years. An upbringing learning various musical instruments and classical theories fused with a DIY punk, experimental-noise ethos is at the heart of Sleeping States. Yet within this experimentation and exploration there remains a regard for beautiful melodies and arrangements, while binding the whole together is Markland’s exquisite voice.
Armed with an electric guitar, found sounds and vocal samplers Markland has been releasing his music for a number of years. After a series of limited run EPs his first 7” single, “Rivers/London Fields”, was released in 2006, a track which Ed of Grizzly Bear declared his favourite of that year. 2007 then saw the release of Sleeping States acclaimed debut, ‘There the Open Spaces’, on Tome records, propelling Markland into an altogether busier world of supportive blogs and lauding press.
A close and revolving cast of musicians enabled Sleeping States to extensively tour the UK and the US during this time, supporting fellow-travellers (and fans) such as Blonde Redhead, Electrelane, Noah and the Whale, M. Ward and St. Vincent.
And so to the new. Lots of books have been read and ‘In the Gardens of the North’ has literary inspirations aplenty. Opening track ‘Rings of Saturn’ is a eulogy for WG Sebald while second track ‘The Next Village’ is inspired by Kafka. Conceptually Robbie Basho, Jorge Luis Borges and soundscape theorist R Murray Schafer are referenced and Benjamin Britten is mused upon. The results are hypnotic and riveting, with Markland’s voice floating atop gorgeous guitar motifs and weaving mesmerising harmonies. “In the Gardens of the North” is without doubt the most accomplished and far reaching Sleeping States musical vision to date.
1. Rings Of Saturn
2. The Next Village
3. Showers In Summer
4. Breathing Space
5. Gardens Of The South
6. Red King
7. On The Beach At Aldeburgh
8. A Spiral Not Repeated
9. The Cartographer
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