At thirty-five, I don’t often have epiphanic moments while listening to music anymore. It’s typically more along the lines of “been there, done that, no alarms, no surprises, etc, etc.” But when I stumbled upon the UK’s Sleeping Peonies during one of my increasingly frequent trawls through the depths of Bandcamp, it happened. This was music I had been waiting my whole life to hear. I realize this is already sounding like hyperbole to the nth degree, but the band’s mix of black metal, shoegaze, synthpop and noise really is as close to perfect as these ears have heard in what seems like forever.
To put it bluntly, Sleeping Peonies’ Opal takes lots of things I love about particular subgenres of music and weaves them together in a way I find infinitely pleasing. Its juxtaposition of the beautiful and the caustic runs through more shades of emotion in just twenty minutes than most bands can muster over the course of an entire full length, going from hazy and haunting to heartbreaking to corrosive in an utterly seamless manner, like a strange yet pleasant dream slowly morphing into a nightmare that plumbs the depths of despair. Each moment offers a unique twist on something familiar, whether it be layered keyboards that recall eighties pop or mechanical beats and screams drowned in jagged distortion, creating something totally new in the process.
I would be very interested to learn about how the EP was recorded; the closest comparison I can come up with is My Bloody Valentine’s swirling magnificence mixed perhaps with a hint of Lycia circa Cold, although I think it’s safe to assume that Sleeping Peonies aren’t operating on a Kevin Shields budget. Whatever the case, it sounds utterly fantastic and perfectly suits the music; the production is somehow at once lo-fi and densely textured, making for a recording that reveals new facets of itself with each listen.
Sleeping Peonies are onto something special with Opal; I can’t stress enough that this isn’t just just another dime-a-dozen “blackened shoegaze” recording. This is legitimately emotional, gorgeously crafted music that’s beyond worth your time. I know, I know, I’m gushing here, but this EP has been such a joy to listen to that I can’t help myself. Check it out for yourselves below and let me know whether or not I’m crazy for loving this so much.
NOTE: Opal was originally intended to be part of split release with Clouds Collide that unfortunately never came to fruition due to the untimely passing of the owner of Khrysanthoney Records. I’ve been so enamored with Sleeping Peonies that I’ve yet to check out Clouds Collide, but I look forward to doing so.