The Gathering - Sleepy Buildings: A Semi Acoustic Evening (Century Media Records 2004)
review by Derek Perduta

Track Listing

  1. Locked Away
  2. Saturnine
  3. Amity
  4. The Mirror Waters (v. 2003)
  5. Red Is A Slow Colour
  6. Sleepy Buildings
  7. Travel
  8. Shrink
  9. In Motion part II
  10. Stonegarden (v. 2003)
  11. My Electricity
  12. Eleanor
  13. Marooned
  14. Like Fountains (v. 2003)



As a long time fan of The Gathering, going back to 1998's 'How to Measure a Planet', any new release from them is much anticipated. When I first read about the new album, it's mere title brought excitement: "Sleepy Buildings - A Semi-Acoustic Evening". A 'semi-acoustic' live album? The implications of the title were immediate; I realized Sleepy Buildings promised to be something special.

The Gathering have become known for studio albums with deep atmosphere. Often a Gathering studio track is full of lush instrumentation, waves of sound undulating and reverberating across the senses and always intricately woven around the heavenly voice of vocalist Anneke. The word 'soundscape' is frequently used for the works by such ambient artists like Steve Roach or Vidna Obmana, but it works equally as well to describe The Gathering. This is the kind of stuff where you turn the lights low, lay back, put the headphones on and enjoy the ride. So naturally I want to hear it performed live.

The Gathering's 1999 live album 'Superheat' was a great representation of the band at that time, capturing a live set which focused on an album that marked a turning point in their sound: 'How to Measure a Planet'. I had never seen them perform live at that point, but after hearing 'Superheat' I had no doubt they could move from studio to stage without too much trouble.

What would 'Sleepy Buildings' sound like, I wondered. The first time I heard it I was like a kid on Christmas morning eagerly devouring the gifts in front of me. The atmosphere was more subdued, the instrumentation more sparse. Anneke's vocals are showcased and are the spotlight in nearly every song. Her vocals are nothing short of stunning, I can think of no other with her range, power and control. She's at the top of her game and certainly in a league of her own.

Strangely, after the first few spins I was disappointed. I couldn't quite put a finger on it. It was good, very good in fact, but it seemed lacking in some way. Maybe I didn't 'get it'. So I shelved the disc, I'd get back to it some other time... perhaps it would strike me then.

A short week later, I found out I was to review 'Sleepy Buildings'. At the time I wasn't sure what I'd write, so sooner than I expected I realized I'd have to give it a closer listen. So off I go on vacation; laptop, Walkman and CD in hand. Late one night in the lonely world of writing computer code I listened to 'Sleepy Buildings'. I won't talk about writing computer code at 1 in the morning on vacation, that's a different topic entirely, but I will talk about this: I 'got it'.

The subtlety and beauty of it were simplistic. The stripped down arrangements showed the bare soul of each song. The performance seemed to be for me alone. I began enjoying it as I think it was meant to be. No longer did I think that something was missing-- to the contrary-- each track now seemed to exhibit a new life. Different from a studio version, not the same as a true acoustic track - this was definitely something unique.

The 14 tracks cover the bands back catalogue, even 3 tracks from the early albums 'Always' and 'Almost A Dance', which were before Anneke joined the band. All 3 songs are beautifully retooled and given over to Anneke's talents. The title track is exclusive to this release. Only a piano only accompanies Anneke for this song. It is perhaps out of place, with it's feel of encouragement and happiness uncharacteristic within the bands normal repertoire. All the Anneke era tracks carry themselves with a persuasive power. The band performs each track with passion and grace. I wish I were one of the lucky ones to have been at the LUX the night this was recorded. The track 'Eleanor' is the true highlight for me. The balance of Anneke and the band comes into equilibrium here, a truly wonderful version of an old classic. The pre-Anneke track 'Like Fountains' is a gorgeous end to this journey.

For anyone looking for some new sounds, The Gathering won't disappoint. Sleepy Buildings is not the place to start for a newbie, but once acquainted with 'How to Measure a Planet', 'If_Then_Else' and 'Souvenirs', this is the next best place to go.


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