Album | The Barr Brothers – Sleeping Operator


Gather round close. The warm glow of the Barr Brothers’ long-awaited second LP burns like the family room fireplace. Three years in the making, Sleeping Operator is a meticulously prepared piece of art, an hour-long meditation which can transport you away to another land – where Americana intertwines effortlessly with West African rhythms and modernistic pulsing.

To produce this record, the Montreal four piece teamed up with members of Arcade Fire, Patrick Watson’s band, the Luyas, Little Scream and more, laying down 40 tracks from which to hand-pick the final selection. And while we can only imagine what might emerge come the day someone sees fit to issue a deluxe box set with the full array included, the 13 tracks on offer here give us more than enough to be going on with. This is the sort of record which will continue to offer up treats to repeat listeners for years to come.

Brad Barr’s vocals drip with honey while Sarah Page’s harp adds a lush feel, but what separates this band from the pack is their unique use of obscure instrumentation, their painstaking search for the ideal sound. Among those selected here are a marimba, a ngoni, and a fan-made contraption by the name of a cardboardium. None sound out of place.

Should you make this mistake of treating this as background music, it might sound one-paced, but the restraint that can give this impression is deliberate – part of a gentle spell cast by the band. They just want to make sure you’re still concentrating. Those that do will get their rewards, so pull up that armchair, and settle in.