Mathew Sawyer, Sleep Dreamt a Brother

Amber Cowan

By Amber Cowan

on 10.07.13 in Reviews
A powerful emotional world inspired by the death of three friends

He’s been described as “Tom Waits with an iron deficiency,” but there’s nothing bloodless about Londoner Mathew Sawyer’s third album, a striking collision of acoustic guitar, piano and spectral sound effects. His first two albums, with his former band The Ghosts, matched a stripped-back sound to unvarnished lyrics about love and loss, but here his fragile, beautiful folk reaches new emotional heights in a suite of songs inspired by the death of three friends. It’s hard to think of a more eloquent instrument than Sawyer’s voice — fragile, cracking and unafraid of hitting the wrong notes — and he adds to its charge with medieval-sounding string arrangements and heavily processed vocal effects. It sometimes sounds like he’s dueting with the dead. Sawyer has said he wanted the album to feel like a place you can actually inhabit, full of ghosts and shadows. It might sound like the musical equivalent of spinning a glass around an Ouija board, but he creates a powerful emotional world that pulls you in and is impossible to forget.