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Team Sleep - Woodstock Sessions Vol. 4 (Album Review)

Tuesday, 28 July 2015 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

Let's be honest: if you've listened to Team Sleep before, you're definitely a Deftones fan. After all, without the relevant context – namely that Chino Moreno is the architect behind this project – it makes little sense for a band to put out a semi-live album a full decade after their sole previous release, which itself is a record largely forgotten by the world at large.

Disciples of the Californian metal vocalist know better, though. Moreno's obsession with post-rock and shoegaze has always been a huge reason for Deftones' success, initially distinguishing them from the saturated nu-metal scene of the late ‘90s.

It's these elements that are brought to the fore in Team Sleep, where Moreno sheds the metallic edge for a more textured and atmospheric approach. Consequently, ‘Woodstock Sessions’, which was recorded over two days in front of a live audience, is an opportunity for Moreno and band to highlight the intricacies that listeners might have missed from their self-titled LP.

It works, to an extent. The intimate setting is a good space in which to highlight the crushing dynamics that are such a hallmark of the Moreno sound. Turntables and Mogwai-esque guitar work do well to compliment his droning vocals, with drummer Gil Sharone bringing extra depth to the rhythm section.

The Mogwai comparison is fitting and Moreno has often spoken of his admiration for the band. Team Sleep share the Scottish post-rockers’ penchant for slow-burning guitar phrases that build to ear-splitting crescendos, and that can be heard on No, Live From The Stage and O.P..

The best songs here are, funnily enough, the best songs on the original LP. Ever (Foreign Flag) stands out because it isn't simply a feeble imitation of Deftones' more melodic material. By contrast, the likes of Blvd. Nights and Your Skull Is Red teeter on the brink of familiar territory before unsubtly going full Deftones to such an extent it feels tongue-in-cheek. This is ultimately where Team Sleep's problem lies. Few tracks here are truly gripping enough to register with a casual listener and those that do, frankly, resemble b-sides from Moreno's day job. 

‘Woodstock Sessions’ accomplishes a few things, though. The band manage to flesh out their few tracks for a cult fanbase that will rabidly consume anything remotely Chino-related, while each song here sounds absolutely meticulous in terms of sound quality and musicianship.

Ten years on, Team Sleep haven't really done enough to cement themselves as an act. For those who do enjoy the project for what it is, this live performance is simply a frustrating reminder that we need a new album's worth of material.

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