I’ve never really pictured the music Elen Never Sleeps records as being “sad,” the stuff meant to be looped in the background as someone cries into a pillow in their room. His use of space and reverb certainly sound downtrodden, but the Tokyo artist’s voice always seemed much more than simple sad sackery. In terms of overused words, I would say it’s dreamy stuff, but pressed to come up with a metaphor, I’d describe it as staring out of a car window around midday while turning over various memories while also coming to terms with what they are.
Still, the title track to Elen Never Sleeps’ new EP Open Air Dance surprises because it sounds practically giddy. His guitar notes are higher, and the beat actually sounds like it is encouraging dancing, Elen Never Sleeps dropping an exclamation point at the end when he introduces party-leaning percussion (bongos?). Even the vocals sound happier, even though the lyrical content still features a few eyes-to-the-ground moments (“clearly I need to go somewhere else,” along with various hints at needing to find some new scenery). The rest of Open Air Dance isn’t quite as outright with its bliss, with tracks “The Sweetest Thing” and “Drumming Gemini” (the latter being one of his skippiest to date, albeit still shrouded in the same sleepy ennui he’s gotten good at making) further making the case that Elen Never Sleeps should join Jesse Ruins on the Captured Tracks roster. Get the EP here, or listen below.