Perhaps it’s trite and jejune to spend too much time analyzing the name of a band, but listening to “Houseboat” while waiting in an airport, exhausted from devouring too much Thanksgiving foods allowed me to become
Sleep Whale. The album is definitely sleep-inducing, and while this is understood as a compliment in some ambient circles, the sounds on “Houseboat” deliver one to sleep due to unnecessary boredom and tired, formulaic structures and moods rather than from sophisticated sound arrangement or comforting quotidianism.
Multi-instrumentalists Joel North and Bruce Blay construct lethargic sound-worlds that juxtapose baroque pop with electronic ambient explorations. The sounds shift between standard indie eccentricities and rigid post-rock structures that ultimately do not deliver the complexity and sentiment that they so desperately reach for. While the incorporation of classical instrumentation with random electronic glitches and sparkles provide fleeting moments of robust texture, the soundtrack-to-our-lives
mood overpowers, coming across as too contrived to be warmly absorptive. In this regard, Sleep Whale has much in common with fellow Texans Explosions In The Sky. Despite the experimental tendencies of Blay and North, “Houseboat” ends up sounding much more safe and harmless than adventurous. 5/10 -- Elliott Sharp (2 December, 2009)