I don’t have work today; it’s a national holiday and a lie in sounds wonderful, but it doesn’t happen. My body refuses my desire for continued rest and instead insists that I get up and make a cup of tea. Fitting then that while sleep is on my mind, I should take in the new single by The Sleeplings, Four Hens Down.
The Danish trio made a name for themselves in 2017 with their debut album, Elusive Lights of the Long-forgotten, released to critical acclaim and establishing their brooding, dark, prog-esque sound.
Two years later, they deliver a song that perfectly plays to their strengths, a blend of moods and genres, one that tells a unique tale of haunted houses and chickens meeting their fates at the hands of a murderous fox. The music itself tells a story just as interesting in the unsettling air that it creates.
Four Hens Down wastes no time in establishing the lamenting atmosphere that’s present throughout. An abrasive, discordant intro leads way to a crooning, mournful melody, delivered over a delicate chord sequence. The verses highlight the vocal talents of singer Jesper Kragh as he pushes his way up to soothing falsettos, his voice surely being one of the highlights of this moody specimen.
As the single progresses, the atmosphere gradually shifts from that of a mournful nature to a haunting one. Jesper’s vocals become gradually more unnerving, while the soft, delicate piano playing of Peter Just intentionally introduces the occasional “wrong” note, creating a feeling of unease. It’s a really polished display of storytelling with music. What’s particularly impressive is that a record that punches in at just over four minutes in length can create a feeling of different chapters within the tale, simply by adding new elements subtly throughout, shifting the balance of anguish and despair.
This song is an interesting one to place in terms of genre. It has notes of prog and post-rock in its chord sequences, but never reaches the dizzying heights that those genres characteristically carry. It has guitar playing that wouldn’t be out of place in an indie-folk record, and the presence of piano certainly sways it in that direction, but it also has hints of the noisier side of alternative rock. That’s not to say this is by any means a noisy rock track, it certainly isn’t that, but there’s this feeling that The Sleeplings have the urge to pull out the stops at any time but refuse to do so. It’s like its bubbling away amongst the pages of this story, and you’re almost willing for it to rip out the seam with an unexpected plot twist of aggression. Despite those feelings, the song does want it intends to expertly. Its genre blending pastiche is calculated and purposeful, accurately befitting the mood.
Four Hens Down is a wonderful introduction to The Sleeplings. As a single, it presents enough interest and intrigue to warrant a re-visit, to dig deeper into the narrative and pick up on more of the subtleties. It also paints a bright future for the trio. This sounds like a band who have refined their skill and have primed themselves for their next chapter, whether that be more singles or a second album.
Now I’m going to try and get back to sleep. Bet I dream about dead chickens.