So good it sent me to sleep

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 10:11 18/11/2013

I'm often asked if I ever sleep - usually in the form of a Facebook message or a question on Twitter, sometimes it arrives in an email, from a person I don't really know but I can sense the concern is genuine. I've also been asked how I sleep - as in with all the awful things you say and do. I think people have even been serious about this too. Seems a bit silly to me. I sleep like a baby - erm, without the middle-of-the-night nappy-changing fiascos. 

But it's true I don't sleep a lot. I'm good at it - when I get to do it. But a rather ludicrous career choice - chiefly to have a hobby that pays in chump-change which people assume is some easy-street option rather than real work - has meant I've always had to squeeze sleep in at the very end of the day, right at the end. In fact it's often nearer to the new day when sleep starts. That's been the way for most of my adult life really, I've always worked a full-time job and hacked about at freelancing - the sure way to give yourself homework for the rest of your life - in the spaces around (real) work and sleep.

Add a toddler into the mix and there is no longer the option for a sneaky sleep-in/catch-up at any point in the week.

The latest disruption to my sleep has been playing records at a bar in town on Thursday nights and last week it was Thursday and Saturday. I love doing it (here's Thursday's set of tunes and here's Saturday's). It's a good time, a lot of fun and nice to take the records for a stroll, to get them out and about. They sound different, I find new friends in the tracks. But it's another night out, another very late night/early morning. Hey, so be it - it could be worse right. It's all my choice.Little Sleep Machine

Anyway, all of that is by ambling/rambling preamble to a topic about music to fall asleep to; music to fall asleep with.

It's often used as one of those throwaway lines - "this record doubles as a cure for insomnia" (actually this record does cure insomnia) - but this weekend, in reviewing the new Arve Henriksen album, Places of Worship, a new favourite, a new contender for one of the best albums of the year, the list now so long, I finally got to writing about falling asleep to music as a compliment. Because I've always believed it can be. It should be. I know it's about as helpful to the artist as being told their record was "really great background music" but I've always had a list of favourite albums to listen to when I nod off.

I used to listen to a different album every night - sometimes I'd even put music on repeat. Katy savours the small holes of silence that sometimes sneak into our life together, so she's not at all keen on the idea of drifting off with music on as an intentional move. It might happen, she can sleep if there's music still playing but she wouldn't plan to assist her sleep with an album. I still like that. And if I'm ever alone - travelling, or home with Oscar because work has taken her away - I'll revert to looping some music for the night, it might be an artist on my iPod that's well represented, Miles Davis or John Coltrane or something - and I'll play through a bunch of the albums, drifting in and out of the reach of the music. It helps to send me to sleep. It can influence my dreams, it's reassuring to wake up and hear it, sometimes it's startling and you get it wrong (it is a gamble randomly playing through Coltrane albums I must say).

But I like this.

It was my way - right through high school and university. And there were always favourite albums that seemed to work best/better than others. Sketches of Spain is one. The self-titled album by Ghostland (it features singing from Sinead O'Connor and Natacha Atlas; it's one of my favourite albums). And this year the new one from The Necks has been one of my favourite albums at almost any time of the day, but certainly it's helped send me off to the land of nod more than once.Sleep Music

And so now it's Arve Henriksen that's working in that role. And now I'm attempting wee disco naps now and then so it's been coming in handy in the middle of the day or early evening too.

Another is David Long's score for the new documentary about Edmund Hilary, Beyond The Edge. I've not see the film yet but the music is fantastic. The music makes me want to see the film.

So, how about you? Any favourite drifting off albums? Any albums you enjoy specifically as send-you-to-sleep music? Or is that still - whichever way you dress it up - the ultimate insult? 

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