Wide Asleep is the third album from Australia’s Sophie Hutchings. The Sydney-based pianist and composer walks in and around the deep trenches of sleep before taking the plunge into what is an eternal gap, lying between the unconscious depths of sleep and a set of shallow, ascending steps that lead towards conscious awakening. She sees this world through her own eyes, and the music segues between the two states without ever fully waking up. The portal is open.
Her music begins in misty territory. As the listener walks through the ‘Dream Gate’, the piano slowly emerges and strings start to flitter around the centre of the track. Coming across as vaguely gothic in tone, the darkly angelic voices are ushered in, draped in white dresses that billow outwards like sheets caught in a breeze, caressing the ears with their soft sighs. As if emanating out of the white pages of a dark fairy-tale, of Hansel and Gretel or the legend of Ichabod Crane in the village of Sleepy Hollow, the voices glimmer, swaying like leaves on unseen, faceless trees.
The sheets which cover the bed contain their own impermanence, as lines and indentations appear as soon as a particularly vivid dream stirs the body, every irregularity a new geometric shape.
Her tasteful playing and wonderful phrasing can trace the lines of a sleepy melody as it occasionally folds and then straightens.
The bed is a creased country composed of valleys and mountains with shadows and symmetries making up its landscape, each crease and every involuntary movement a fracture in the chain between a stained, waking world and a land of inked dreams. And her music is dreamy, a woven spell that flutters out of a secluded glen. On Wide Asleep, the strings and the phantom voices are just as important as the piano, sharing the centre with it but giving off completely different moods as they circle and twirl around one another, enacting some kind of courtship ritual. There’s still plenty of space inside the music and this gives off a peaceful air, a sedative that’s slowly working its way through the bloodstream. And all the while, the ghostly echoes play on, singing a lament for the dreamer. The sighs sound like they’ve come from the astral plane as they slowly seep into the corners of vision.
Dawn filters in, brightening up ‘Living Light’, and as the seconds pass the piano gradually becomes more energetic and open-eyed. The melody swoops and flutters, finding some shelter underneath a canopy of eyelashes. The tone is cool, the timbre in a constant eclipse that moves between a pale light and a jet-black shadow. The two parts of ‘Memory’ are lengthier affairs, the latter of which sees the return of the voice, which plays with the shaded tone of the strings and the softer notes of the dreamlike piano. The two sides are joined together and lead perfectly to the eight-minute-long ‘Blind Dance’. The mood is pensive, and the music is never interested in waking itself. We’re blissfully caught up in the web of a dream-zone, the music preferring to remain in a world where dreams really do come true. Wide Asleep is imbued with imaginative, phantasmagorical music; it’s a gateway to another world.