Tokyo is a city in constant motion. People seem to always be moving, whether they find themselves caught in a large swath of people crossing the street or packed like sausages on a rush-hour train. Grocery stores stay open later in Tokyo, providing quick meals for those cursed to come home on the last train…or head out on it. For many there might be a few hours of shut eye waiting at the end of the day – though some suit-clad folks get blindsided by sleep and end up sprawled out in an alley or a train platform – but a whole lot of action comes before any rest. And all-night days aren’t uncommon.
The appropriately named Sleepy Tokyo…which, if there was truth in advertising, would be the metropolis’ official slogan…has pretty much made a concept album about one such late night…which he (he being Justin DiCenzo, who breaks down the concept himself over here). Released in ten chunks on Sleepy Tokyo’s SoundCloud page,this piece exists entirely in the realm of tiredness, opening with what serves as a character introduction (“Dark Circles,” which we can assume rest under the eyes) before exploring further physical exhaustion (“Heavy Head Fallen,” “The Slow Plover Stumble”) and then reaching a sort of breaking point (the water-faucet-leak feel of “Time Slows” followed by the sluggish “Subroutines Take Over.”) Even the one brief moment where our nameless Tokyo protagonist manages to rest ends up being portrayed as rather joyless, as the song is titled “Dreamless Sleep.” The cycle ends with the most propulsive track…which means some consistent drumming rather than Inception-like thumps every once in awhile…which also seems a touch cynical – “Return To The Race.”
Last year, Toronto’s The Weeknd released three albums that served as the sonic equivalent of an all-night binge, the production shambling from cloudy hazes to claustrophobic trips meant to match the hedonistic piles of drugs and women occupying a common night in the life of The Weeknd. Sleepy Tokyo, meanwhile, explore a different sort of burning out – the grinding physical exhaustion brought on by a capitalistic work system. Saying these songs take their time would be generous – nearly every track zombie-shuffles past the six-minute mark, some even nearing ten. Sleepy Tokyo’s compositions lean towards the atmospheric, spacious electronics drifting by like street lamps visible from behind a taxi car’s window. The effect these ten tracks have is similar to the feeling of working an extremely long day and knowing the same routine comes back around tomorrow – the songs get progressively more spaced out as the night drags on, with only brief sleep allowing the central character to recharge just enough so when its time to go to the race, they have an extra (drum) kick in their step. This is Tokyo in ten long, minimalist wisps of music. Listen here.