Some musicians just don’t want their music played in daytime. Sure, you can play them when the sun is shining, but they keep most of their secrets hidden till it sets. The National’s Boxer, Sigur Ros’ Agaetis Byrjun, Radiohead’s Kid A—these all reveal themselves in full glory only when the moon hangs in the sky. But then there are some bands, some artists that take the extra step and insist upon keeping their treasures close to the chest until you’re just laying in your bedroom, staring at the darkened ceiling. Near the top of that list are Mark Kozelek and Jimmy LaValle, representing Sun Kil Moon and The Album Leaf respectively, and their collaborative effort Perils From the Sea asks you to enjoy it by candlelight.
Both men come from bands which are more like monikers. Their work is thoroughly solo, the innovation of singular and brilliant minds. Kozelek first hit radars with his band Red House Painters and continues to be a prolific and acoustic-driven songwriter with Sun Kil Moon as well as releases under his own name. LaValle’s The Album Leaf has always been something of a post-rock LCD Soundsystem, a synthesized Sigur Ros. At first glance, a collaboration doesn’t appear obvious, but it ends up being tremendously worthwhile.
It’s really striking how collaborative the effort really is. The instrumentation seems more LaValle’s doing, but even that’s injected with Kozelek’s sort of brooding slowness. The Album Leaf tends more to the instrumental side of things, but that project’s sense of natural musicality shows up in the lyrics Kozelek lets out here. It’s not a matter of this being where one person’s influence ends and the other’s begins. Instead, it’s pure amalgamation, synthesis and alchemy.
No song here is under five minutes, and more than half are over seven. There aren’t very many hooks to speak of, but both musicians are adept at putting enough musical curiosities and inviting sounds to keep the listeners’ ears trained in through their odysseys. The tempo never really increases to more than that of an average heartbeat and even at full volume, it would be pretty easy to sleep to each of the songs here. It’s never really boring though, walking the tightrope between banal and balmy with a surgeon’s skill.
Most every song here is dedicated to impressionistic storytelling. Kozelek has long had the skill of coupling introspection with stories that weren’t, at least at first glance, autobiographical. His has been a vocabulary of ghosts and breezes, and these tales are perfectly accompanied by LaValle’s perfectly humanized synthesizers. Make sure to play it at nighttime; let it guide you through sleep cycles, insomnia and everything in between. It’ll make you appreciate both artists individually and their collaboration even more.