The Liverpool three piece creative Stealing Sheep (Becky Hawley, Emily Lansley and Lucy Merver) released their 2012 debut album ‘Into The Diamond Sun’ to great acclaim, featuring a distinct folk-based roots influence. This unique female trio have since opened shows for artists such as Alt-J, St. Vincent, Postal Service and have also collaborated on a composition for a cult 70’s science fiction film soundtrack ‘Le Planete Sauvage’.
This experience and continued vision of Stealing Sheep, amidst their musical and arts exploration, has strongly developed a characteristic, synth heavy, experimentalist sound for this their follow up LP ‘Not Real’ released April 13th 2015.
The album is self-produced by the band in their Liverpool studio (assisted by Sam Crombie and Joe Wills) and is the result of a hybrid of demos and more considered recordings, as the band have stated the original demo’s captured an atmosphere they wanted to carry forward into the album. The sound and instrumentation is very much a concentrated development of their sonic aesthetic – experimenting with tuned percussion, programmed beats, trigger samples and effected synths, introducing a more processed sound into the Stealing Sheep vibe.
The opening track ‘Sequence’ displays this aesthetic perfectly with interesting synth sounds, simple rhythms and melodies, a layered sound of instrumentation and harmonies which result in a dreamscape / California-surf surrealist vibe.
The album flows into ‘Apparition’ which gives way to the atmospheric demo quality idea Stealing Sheep have utilised. A simplistic drum machine sound pulses through the track, with melodies and instrumentation textures weaving throughout, exploring the more produced synth sounds.
‘Not Real’, the lead single, strikes up with a very dry, metronomic chant-like vocal catching the listeners attention. The simplistic and repetitive vocal hook with drum machine and electronica instrumentation provides continuity to the earlier tracks. With an early-Beck-like experimentation and starkness, a theme running throughout the album is now apparent. The music video is where the Stealing Sheep visual art and creativity backgrounds come to light, with a pleasant mix of 50’s exotica, electronica and 80’s pop influence.
Not Real by Stealing Sheep
‘This Time’ features a psychedelic 60s guitar riff throughout with following track ‘Greed’ continuing the listeners attention with another stark vocal line and harmony over a pulsating / hypnotic drum beat. New and interesting sounds continue to appear, culminating in a great old school synth solo, smothered in complimentary vibrato.
A stand out track is ‘Evolve And Expand’ with its simple live acoustic guitar and vocal duet / unified vocal harmonies. This is reminiscent of the original Stealing Sheep sound, the melancholic sparseness drawing in the listener.
The final track ‘She’ opens with a chilled half-time feel and an essence of Florence And The Machine. This soon switches tempo and drum beat to steadily build the track to its finale through a swathe of textures, synths and ideas working over time before diminishing to an abrupt ending of the track – and the album.
Overall ‘Not Real’ as a body of work is well crafted, featuring interesting sounds, harmonies and ideas across well produced tracks; customary to the dreamworld vintage soundscapes genre to which the developed Stealing Sheep sound and imagery will appeal greatly to.
Reviewer: David Smith