Releasing an ep so soon after an album, with no preceding singles in sight, may seem an odd line of progression for an artist. However, for Lotte van den Berg’s project sleepyhead, this sequence couldn’t make any more sense.
Before You Go was released at the beginning of March this year, and is now being followed up by The Hurt is Gone. Although two separate pieces, they are deeply connected, and should be appreciated alongside each other – preferably one after the other.
Together, they tell a story of loss and grief, as well as new beginnings and hope. Whilst Before You Go takes us through the various states of grief, with and all its facades and nuances, The Hurt is Gone stands as a conclusion. We find a sense of finality that van den Berg admitted she struggled to reach previously, furthermore demonstrating the illogical and unpredictable nature of the grieving process. Such intense, complex emotional journeys don’t always fit into one concise, singular album. Especially when mastering and mixing compilations of songs from a lost co-author. Though both album and ep are discrete and subject to personal interpretation, for sleepyhead, they stand as a tribute to her friend Davarious Jackson, aka – The Feel Department, who died in December 2018.
The Hurt is Gone is a deeply familiar body of work. It has stylistic similarities to its predecessor, but uses more sampling – largely from older American films that are so deeply nostalgic. The wistful voices of young Jennifer Aniston and Jake Gyllenhall in You Can Still Get Out are almost as powerful as the intricate way they are mixed with melancholy, beautifully layered beats. This familiarity, however, is bitter sweet – a tone that runs throughout sleepyhead’s work.
As well as rose-tinted American movies, the ep also contains some darker familiarity in the form of sampling the 911 ‘Slender’ stabbings call, in Get Home Safe, I Love You. Despite the terrifying, hysterical story behind it, the call itself is extraordinarily hopeful. We hear the man who found the victim on the brink of death comforting her, and the emergency services rushing to her rescue. Layered with a beautiful piano melody, the song feels deeply eerie yet hopeful – a story of hysteria and terror as well as connection and love. These samples allow us to connect to other stories, and in turn further develop our understanding of the grieving process.
As well as sampling, the ep is comprised of, and ends with, original lyrics from van den Berg herself as well as Davarious’ mother Rashida Jackson. This, stylistically, is the most obvious difference to Before You Go. It’s almost as if van den Berg has finally found the words to say goodbye – to grief, and in turn to her friend. The choice to include a monologue from his mother is extraordinarily vulnerable and raw.
This final track, entitled In Everything, I’m Keeping You, wraps up everything sleepyhead’s work has encapsulated. It brings together sorrow, pain and love, and brings the listener so seamlessly back into the world. The hazy-pop style we have come to know of sleepyhead almost feels trance-like, transporting you into the unpredictable and illogical world of emotional distress and trauma. But after we hear from Rashida Jackson, the song strips back layer by layer. The melody stops mid-bar, and we are left with the hum of crickets in the night – reincarnated from the process of grief, back into reality, and the future.
The Hurt is Gone marks the end of sleepyhead for van den Berg. All proceeds from the project will go to CALM for suicide prevention.
The Feel Department: https://www.facebook.com/TheFeelDepartment/