Leila Abdul-Rauf says on her Bandcamp page that the pieces she creates are “not so much composed as captured from dreams.” The songs on Insomnia certainly fit that bill, in two regards. The first is that they are deep, shadowy things made of mist and wayward thoughts, each one a walk through a hazy, shifting landscape. The second is that they tend to end a bit too abruptly, fading off mid-thought to wake you from reverie. I’m sure it’s not arbitrary in the artist’s mind, but quite often throughout the album a song would face and my only thought was that it seemed…sudden. That may be expected, given that the longest of the 10 songs here clicks in under five and a half minutes, but as a recurring thought, it tended to be distracting. While they drift along, however briefly, the pieces on Insomnia skirt the edge of true dark ambient, slipping the listener into a grey twilight space. Abdul-Rauf’s voice figures prominently, loaded with reverb as she keens wordless songs over shifting pads. “Drift” layers in trumpet, again heavily reverbed and set back into the soundscape. “Edges of A Mirror” is a lush drift of quiet sounds, a short and beautiful meditation. “He Sits in His Room” pops up as a bit of a surprise as it opens with a twanging line against a tremolo backdrop. The solidity of that twang is a great touch. Again here, Abdul-Rauf’s voice wafts in like some dark prayer, layered on itself for dimension and harmony. The trumpet returns as counterpoint, launching high arcs that sound just a touch—deliberately—dissonant. I like what it adds, and should probably that my sense of its dissonance is likely a personal thing.
With its dreamy, dark feel, Insomnia will appeal to listeners who prefer to not go too far into true dark ambient. It has a rich, ritualistic tone in places and would make for an excellent low-volume listen.
Available at Bandcamp.