Glitchy. A synonym for our musical times, though Raffertie (born Benjamin Stefanksi) knows how to deal with the tech that spawned it better than most. His 2011 Visual Acuity EP was high-octane electronic stuff, an incredibly promising start with a vivid, well defined sound. 2013 now marks his follow up and debut full-length Sleep Of Reason, which finds the London-based producer in much more philosophical repose – and that’s just the chiaroscuro album art.
It’s an album of multi-layered textures; whilst Visual Acuity‘s harsher, percussive sounds remain, there’s a ghost of analogue in the mix, making for sparser tracks that therefore allow you to get deeper into the album as a whole. As you might expect from a relative newcomer signed to Ninja Tune, the record rewards repeated listening, isn’t going to soundtrack mindless park-frolicking, and is unremittingly intense.
That’s not to say it’s hard work. The melodic scales and conventional build up of ‘One Track Mind’ is a great, nuanced palette-cleanser, and ‘Trust’ sensitively dis-and re-assembles a vocal pairing, making for a hypnotic, swirling abstract. It’s also an album that improves as it goes (as any should), with the scuzzy ‘Principle Action’ and the instrumental led ‘Known’ kicking off a seriously strong final third.
Raffertie prefers to showcase his skill in restraint and finesse rather than bombast, and though tracks can seam to fair strain from the effort of holding it in, there’s a lifeblood consistently pulsing through the record’s three quarters of an hour. Intriguingly It’s difficult to pinpoint where it all comes from, and it’s to Raffertie’s credit. Traces of the super minimalist and ethereal Ulysses by Murcof, perhaps muddled with aspects of contemporaries such as Slime, Bullion or Two Inch Punch. Equally likely is a more experimental genesis akin to the clinically severe Holly Herndon or Son Lux. Regardless, the beauty in an eclectic set of inspirations is that without knowing exactly where Raffertie is coming from, you’re never quite sure where he’s going to go next.
What throws up obstacles to Sleep of Reason being an insurmountable debut is its own intellectual nature. There are moments begging to be propelled forward by just one more bass explosion, or tracks such as ‘Principle Action’ that feel like they’re setting up a visceral conclusion before remembering their manners just in the nick of time. Such missteps are more than made up for but Raffertie’s hyper-kinetic side (see/hear the eponymous track of his EP) is indeed curiously absent.
Sleep of Reason then is a ponderous rolling through complexly changing scenery, no one drive-through ever seeming the same, more than a roller-coaster ride that promises the same loops each time. ‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters’ and this debut suggest Raffertie has created something that shouldn’t really make sense in the cold light of day – but most definitely does.