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Search The Line of Best Fit

Maven Grace’s stunning Sleep Standing Up crystallises the need for self-acceptance

"Sleep Standing Up"

Release date: 03 March 2023
Maven Grace - Sleep Standing Up cover
06 March 2023, 00:00 Written by Tanatat Khuttapan

It’s miraculous how, at a mere wedding party, 3 friends who have known each other for years would reconnect and, later on, make such entrancing music together.

UK group Maven Grace were born precisely thus, reuniting long-term buddies Mary Home, Henry Jack, and Thomas White, all of whom had separately contributed to different local acts before. The trio began making demos remotely and released them on Soundcloud. After garnering an audience, they were given the opportunity to play a gig at Standon Calling in 2018, which promptly captured the attention of Bryan Ferry. That was the exact moment when Maven Grace sprouted to full bloom: their demos were revamped and mastered, and new songs were produced, thanks to Ferry’s subsequent offer of his Avonmore Studios.

With help of producer Chris Merrick Hughes (Adam and the Ants, Tears for Fears), the debut album, titled Sleep Standing Up, germinated quite sumptuously there. During the process of crafting it, which stretched across 4 years, the band amassed tragic stories of loss and its ensuing melancholy, morphing them into powerful waves of meditative synths, lulling electric piano, and explosive guitar riffs. The result is propitious; many songs, if you listen with your eyes closed, emit a kaleidoscope of hazy colours, as if in a dream full of constant turmoil and unprecedented changes. The arresting opening track “Me Versus the Volcano”, for example, builds on layers of cosmic synths and, all of the sudden, explodes into a marvellous collage of various instruments, signifying a pang in the heart, the dawning of a realisation that life isn’t restrained by merely one traumatising event.

Sleep Standing Up documents these stages of ploughing through numerous obstacles – bereavement, divorce, isolation – with an impressively limpid lens of acceptance and understanding, tackling each hurdle with patience and wisdom. There are times, of course, when things get out of hand and they ultimately surrender to the gush of indissoluble despair, but they never fully submerge themselves in these destructive emotions. The trio only dab at them, just to numb their pain a little, before rising up to resume their valorous fight. On “Darkness”, a definitive highlight of the album, Home joins a choir, singing of dancing in the darkness, of knife cuts in the wounded heart. Swinging between distorted electric guitar and angelic Matouqin – between darkness and light – she sets her spirit aglow, emerging from the gloom and pushing herself towards a state of unyielding reassurance.

The same applies to “When the Butterflies Come Down”, a traditional ballad, where Home outlines her scene with feather light, dreamlike rumination. The reverberating piano accompanies each painting she crafts: a depiction of life without her beloved – silent, nondescript, but still luminescent. These tracks are either laments for severed connections or futile pleas for a reconciliation, but they’re carved in an emancipatory awareness that such human troubles are inevitable. People face these hardships occasionally – as part of their life – and the band accepts this fact with bright illumination. No more crying, no more smiles that pause time and pull us under; where we stand is the present – never take it for granted.

They earn their musical strengths through this attribute. With intricate, spellbinding production that often nods to the eclectic styles of Marvin Gaye, Radiohead, Cocteau Twins, and, more recently, Beach House, Sleep Standing Up is not a requiem nor an endless meandering in grief and heartbreak, but a diaristic documentation and crystallisation of every tragedy that pulls us up from sleep every time it enters our mind. Through the dense mist of transcendental synths and pedal steel on “Silver Birches”, the revelation arrives like gentle wintry showers: “Nothing to be done / Side by side the chosen few / The going down of the sun.” All these gruelling memories will shape the most robust version of ourselves; only our acceptance of them is needed to complete the process. In the end, it’s sleep standing up, then falling back with a smile, knowing that the pain is manageable and temporary.

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