Dubliner electro three-piece Sleep Thieves debut EP It Was Only A Satellite, released back in 2009, was a tantalising glimpse at what the electronic maestros might have to offer. Simple yet subtle, it told the charming tale of a band that managed to touchingly fuse highly personalised tales of staring at satellites from summer hot tubs into something that seemed to relate to the listener. Its sound, it turns out, was heavily influenced by the band’s early rehearsal spaces: cramped living rooms simply didn’t allow for a louder, more aggressive style.
Heart Waves has no such space problems, and is noticeably more expansive as a result. While we certainly couldn’t classify it as an angry record, there’s a noticeable element of angst creeping into the lyrics, a dissatisfied tinge that’s found its way into a backdrop of bass and bleeps. It’s an edge that’s reflected in the sound, too: several efforts seem to draw influence from another local dancefloor-filling act, Le Galaxie. Tracks like ‘Hope Is Dead’ and ‘Do It The Hard Way’ take a direction that’s more bounce-along boisterous than the borderline shoe-gaze brand of electronica that the three-piece once reeled out with a stage presence that bordered on nervous. The fragile confidence, as demonstrated when the new sound was unveiled at last summer’s Hard Working Class Heroes festival, is also a thing of the past. The quieter, emotional moments, though, have not been entirely dismissed.
EP track ‘Osumi’ and single ‘City Lights’ have been given a glistening production overhaul for the full-length album. For all the fresh material, live-staple ‘Osumi’ is stronger than ever and arguably the album’s standout, with Sorcha’s vocals finding their slightly-distant, slurred high point. She’s not alone on vocal duty this time out, though, with Wayne weighing in on ‘Disappear Here’, a track which opens with the harsh relent “the scene is dead for me”, and touches on lyrical topics as varied as Lou Reed and spontaneous elopement. The track seems to draw its Nintendo-ish instrumental moments from the layered tones of a thousand global telephones boxes.
Taking such a substantial step aside from the sound that’s won Sleep Thieves not-insignificant local acclaim over the past couple of years was a not insubstantial risk. Seeing the band evolve into the late night dance-a-thon that their instrumentation always threatened, whilst still keep the occasional bout of almost child-like simplicity and starkness in the album’s quieter moments, is reward enough in itself: this is electro-pop at its most infectious. Bleep, bleep, bleep, move…