There’s a certain loneliness that can only be experienced on a crowded dance floor. “Little Sleepwalker,” Born Gold’s sophomore effort, borrows from hip-hop and club music to create an introspective and personal song collection. Moving away from the bright hyperpop of “BODYSONGS,” Born Gold created an album that is less outspoken but equally intricate — one best enjoyed in the dark, in the dead of night.
The first lines of “Pulse Thief,” the distorted mutterings of “Euphoria’s asleep/I took her timid pulse,” are a roadmap for the entire work. This dreamy darkness translates into the instrumentation of the track, where the synth and the echo of the drum give the song a sinister, otherworldly feel.
“That Way” continues to toy with the idea of dance music, even employing a thumping 4-4 beat. Frena deadpans the overused line, “Girl I know what you want,” only to pull the listener’s mind out of the gutter by following it with, “So let your eyes roll back/ Sleepwalk through these woods.” Throughout the record, Born Gold uses the tropes of different styles of music and transforms them in unexpected ways.
“Lethe” uses a synth reminiscent of Justin Timberlake’s celebratory “My Love” to create a world that is menacing and eerie. The track draws its haunting strength from the juxtaposition of complex instrumentation with half-second silences, where the beat drops out and the last uttered lyrics linger.
“I: Ferocious Body” is a delightful treat for click, bell and whistle enthusiasts. In a recent interview, Frena said he challenged himself on “Little Sleepwalker” to start the songwriting process with beats, and his attentiveness to percussion is one of the strongest parts of the album. This carries through to the accompanying track, ”Against Silence,” which expands upon the ideas in “I: Ferocious Body” using bits and pieces of his stylized vocals to form the only lyrics of the song, the simple statement, “I am not afraid.”
The one fleeting sight of pop on the album is the cheerful “Skybicycle,” but even this track manages to break out of a conventional structure, surprising the listener with a chopped up and rhythmically interesting bridge. “Little Sleepwalker” doesn’t linger in a major key, instead taking a turn for the cosmic on “Black Sonar.” I could almost hear Death Grips’ MC Ride rapping over the track, yet another sign of the new interconnectedness between hip-hop and electronica. The album concludes with “Gauze Pillars,” an elaborate track that seems to occupy the space between waking and dreaming.
What ultimately makes “Little Sleepwalker” a successful experiment is that, despite its sleepy and ephemeral theme, it successfully creates a haunting sound that carries the listener through a unique world.