Considering the second part of Beardfish's album was supposed to document the "night part" of the concept, one might have thought the songs on this platter would be darker in tone, emphasizing moodier soundcapes compared to the off-the-wall material that permeated the first disc. It should be noted that this is not the case here -- at all.
Rather, Sleeping in Traffic - Part Two expands on the first album, retaining its eclectism from start to finish, even building on it. Still steeped in the roots of 70's progressive rock movement, Beardfish continue to produce all-encompassing material, often borrowing from the Zappa and Gentle Giant library and bordering on avant-garde at times. A song like "South of the Border", for instance, sees the band highlighting their sense of humour, as it is informed by a plethora of soundscapes, from the spoken vocal parts to its classic rock tendencies to the downright frightening instrumental wizardy (where blazing organs clash with oddly tuned guitar work) to its ever-funky rhythmic pattern.
On the instrumental piece "Cashflow", they delve into full-on avant-garde territory, which might even be a challenge for the avid Zappa fan. At six minutes, it sees a multitude of sound experiments infused into quirky instrumental passages -- almost too much to take
on first listen. Actually, the first and last songs only function as an intro and outro to the other six songs, as they both clock in at less than two minutes: the first tune is just a segment of warm melodies whilst the last one is a solemn piano bit fading into white noise.
Then there are the more song-based yet equally bizarre numbers. "Into the Night" is like an excerpt of the tunes on part one, rightly so. The first part is filled with playful instrumental craze, while the second part is jazzier and darker conjuring up images of the night, ever so briefly. There is a unison solo happening towards the end, where agile melodies are interwoven and climax in typical Fripptonics fashion.
The laidback, bass-centric "The Downward Spiral / Chimay" sees Rikard Sjoblom extracting ever-changing synth tones from his instrument, but there is also a soothing, dreamlike acoustic section complemented by beautiful percussion work. The clarity captured here is awe-inspiring. The husky bass intro of "The Hunter", arguably the band's most bizarre
work, opens the track as rousing synths crash into the piece all too unexpectedly. Organs dominate, vocals of Sjoblom - intentionally so - continue to fluctuate between normal singing and the delirious, lunatic tones. The lyrics are equally mind-boggling: "It gives me satisfaction to see you scared and running | And when you bleed you bleed only for me | So peel back the skin of your skull | Cause I wanna see what's inside." The band is being terribly sarcastic it seems, and the ending of the song where lofty guitars and keyboars unite in order to form a cinematic experience is stupifying.
Then of course there is the title track, merging the two discs beautifully, with common threads of melodies and themes. At over thirty-five minutes though, the song can be hard to internalise at one sitting, but one comes to experience its unity and flow upon repeat
listens. This is basically the whole Beardfish sound captured on one tune, and it begins and ends exactly the same: with cold bass throbs cascading irregularly.
A concept album about the 24 hours in a person's life, part one was about the day and this one is about the night, and a more challenging listen as well. It could also be said that this disc is unafraid to sound deliberately modern in parts, unlike the first album which is
more loyal to the traditional prog sound.
Both discs are highly recommendable; though, for obvious reasons, you're advised to start with part one.
- As the Sun Sets
- Into the Night
- The Hunter
- South of the Border
- The Downward Spiral / Chimay
- Sleeping in Traffic
- Sunrise Again