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Demo CD
~reviewed by Kevin

When Blu first told me about Sleepless, an Israeli Goth/Dark Ethereal duo, I was expecting something with a "World Music" flavor -- Ofra Haza fronting Black Tape for a Blue Girl, perhaps.  But the Sleepless demo CD took me totally by surprise.  Maor Appelbaum and David Bendayam take their cues not from Yemenite folk music but from Pink Floyd circa Meddle and Obscured by Clouds and "Progressive Rock" bands like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.  The antecedents are unexpected but not unwelcome, and Sleepless does them proud with one of this year's most promising debuts.

Appelbaum and Bendayam make for an interesting vocal combination.  Appelbaum's gruff, sung-spoken baritone reminds me of Garm, lead vocalist for Arcturus and Ulver (even down to the charming accent).  In contrast, Bendayam has a melodic, high voice ala John Lennon or Art Garfunkel.  The two combine beautifully. Appelbaum provides an anchor for Bendayam's wispy,
beautiful hooks, and gives the songs an internal sinew and strength which they might otherwise lack.  This contrast and conjunction is also found in the instrumental arrangements: high-ranging flights of fancy are always kept firmly rooted by strong bass lines.

Like their forefathers in the Progressive Rock movement, Appelbaum and Bendayam are both skilled musicians.  The interplay of bass with the ethereal keyboard chords of "Winds Blow Higher" sets the tone for the whole demo CD. "Do You Remember" features the always-welcome sound of an acoustic grand piano, while woodwinds and even a saxophone make appearances elsewhere on this CD.  While the Progressive Rockers could at times bore to tears with long wanking solos, Appelbaum and Bendayam keep things tightly focused here.  With a little work the third track, "Solitude," has definite potential as a single.  I'd get rid of the jarring metalesque guitar/bass solo and instead put in some interesting percussion.  (Sleepless is yet another band which could go in many whole new and interesting directions with a skilled drummer).

The whole CD is marked by a pervasive, heartfelt sense of melancholy.  This could easily slide over into the realm of "Gothic Cheese," but doesn't, thanks to the gorgeous melodies and intelligent orchestration.  Like Roger Waters and David Gilmour before them, Appelbaum and Bendayam make the anguish feel genuine, not affected.  

Although presently unsigned, Sleepless is definitely attracting attention.  A Sleepless song appears on the Nightbreed compilation "New Alternatives V," and Appelbaum and Bendayam are in the final stages of producing their debut album. I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more of these two.  Pick up their CD as soon as you get a chance: you won't be disappointed!

Tracks on Demo CD:
1) Winds Blow Higher
2) Sands of Time
3) Solitude
4) Strings
5) Do you Remember? (Official Site)