Crossing the boundaries between ‘creating art’ and ‘living art’ often involves stepping between the confines of formats and channels for artistic expression. A successful transition can yield the most intriguing results, transforming the artist himself into an idea, a unifying concept for all his work, which, in turn, becomes akin to an instinct, a compulsion, a chaos-born Nietzschean dancing star.
Enter Luka Fisher—a contemporary artist, writer, musician, producer, music video director, activist, translator, and passionate partaker in Los Angeles’s artist circles. Creating at the crossroads of genres and media and constant interaction with the art milieu has earned him an A&R-position at the idiosyncratic Records AD Nauseam. Sleep Gallery is the next step in artistic progression, representing Fisher’s official debut in a musician’s guise. Released by Silber Records as an entry into its 5in5 EP-series (a ‘five songs in five minutes’ concept, aiming to grant full artistic freedom, as well as exploring creative potential of imposing limits), this short yet intriguing set of sonic collages serves the simple purpose of releasing Fisher’s art ‘out into the world’ and letting it tell its own story.
Being first and foremost an artist, Fisher applies techniques and approaches familiar to him from other media to his own music. It becomes apparent as a collage compiled of various audio sources introduces the record. We hear a brief ambient piano melody gradually shedding its soothing qualities while being played on repeat and furthermore turning into something quite unsettling through the addition of processing and treatment by scratching and squeaking noises. There is a great deal of nuance present, and while the whole album sounds entirely strange, nothing seems out-of-place. This unique gathering of sound effectively serves as a backdrop for the dialogue-resembling structure lovingly assembled out of various spoken samples by means of a cut-up technique. Hypnotically uttered, ‘you love art, you live art, you are art, you do art’ slips perfectly into the record’s context, summarizing what Fisher is all about in one concise axiom.
The inclusion of field recordings and other general samples elaborates on the environment in which Fisher lives and creates, augmenting the sense of immediacy present throughout the whole album. The second track displays fuzzy, swaying guitars that are accompanied by a collage of incomprehensible chatter and reverb-drenched moans, driven forth to its culmination by a rigid clanging beat. Unexpectedly, the intensity gives way to gentle female vocalisations which are carried by a subtle ambient background. But even this seemingly guileless piece offers a few quirks; the details of the background unfold after a number of listens.
An ever-present sense of something being ‘off’ certainly plays in the record’s favour. Sometimes it only lingers amongst the tracks’ multiple layers, whilst other times it aims to catch listeners off-guard. The gritty atmosphere of the fourth track is a perfect example: A drastic departure from the previous track’s laid-back ambience, it brings forth a mixture of noise, weird guitar effects, and amp feedback, further intensified by half-whispered, half-screamed vocals.
‘There’s an end to everything’—a distant voice announces the record’s final act. A distorted synth melody keeps on wandering behind the veils of gentle droning until it reaches its hasty end, effectively signalled by the click of a stop-button of some recording device.
A man of many faces, Luka Fisher is also a collage himself, comprised of many people he has collaborated with and learned from in order to expand and excel his expression. Containing a lengthy list of guest performers, the five-minute long Sleep Gallery is the result of a prolific joint effort between many individuals. With its unpredictable nature and diversity of sonic input, the record exists ‘in the moment’, while short spinning time further contributes to the sense of creative urgency. Records Ad Nauseam’s press release calls these tracks, ‘sound experiments’, rather aptly, as they show the signs of what might develop into something more, yet offering enough to represent the versatility of Fisher’s work (and pique the interest of those unfamiliar with it).
So what is Sleep Gallery? Like any art piece, the story within is equal parts fiction, reality, and mystery. An observant eye might notice that all track titles combined give us a clue from Fisher himself: ‘What else besides a pleasure heart alters your surroundings as you slip away in the Sleep Gallery’. Undoubtedly an invitation for a variety of interpretations, yet one can speculate if this statement provides a glimpse of the intentions behind this creative output—an impulse-driven escape, a display of means for transformation, and a process of personal liberation.
Sleep Gallery is a short five-minutes-long escape, a crack in a wall to peek into the crowded workspace of a busy occupant. Keeping in mind Fisher’s previous involvement with video directing, this EP can be seen as a short sonic documentary, delving into the everyday life and musings of a person that lives and breathes his art. Strange, perplexing, even devoid of meaning to some ears, Sleep Gallery stands as an honest display of raw artistic work perfected through collaboration.
01) What Else
02) Besides a Pleasure Heart
03) Alters Your Surroundings
04) As You Sleep Away
05) In the Sleep Gallery