Sleepthief is the new electronic/vocal musical project of producer/composer Justin Elswick and co-producer Israel Curtis.
Similar to Balligomingo and Delerium, Sleepthief combine pulsating rhythms, sonic string textures, synth vibes, and a bevy of
eleven beautiful female vocalists to create an exhilerating listening experience.
Our feature includes reviews of Sleepthief's debut album promotional edition and incorporates interviews with Justin Elswick as well as all eleven of the album's vocalists and co-writers. Learn about the artists' backgrounds, how they became part of Sleepthief and the making of the album. Photographs of the artists are included within their interviews. Our interview with Justin and
album review are found below.
The Dawnseeker features the vocal work of Jody Quine, Shelley Harland, Nicola Hitchcock, Caroline Lavelle, Kristy Thirsk, Kirsty Hawkshaw, San.Drine, Jerri Eckert, Roberta Carter Harrison, Kyoko Baertsoen and Laruen Edman. Click on the links below to read our interviews with each of the vocalists. Each will open in an individual window surrounding the main page.
The expansive sound of The Dawnseeker is the product of two years of production and countless hours of lost sleep--and the end result is a compelling album that beckons to be heard. Engineered and co-produced by Israel Curtis, The Dawnseeker is sure to garner attention of fans of angelic vocals, sublime electronica and celestial soundscapes alike.
The music is rich and varied, ranging from the drum and bass pulse of "The Chauffeur," an amazing cover of the Duran Duran classic hit, to the Celtic-influenced melancholy of "Eurydice;" from the sweeping sorry of "Sublunar (Sweet Angel)" to the middle-eastern energy of "Desire of Ages." What is certain is that Sleepthief has composed a moving and powerful debut album that showcases the mystery and beauty of the female voice.
Justin Elswick (Composer/Producer)
Photo © Sleepthief 2006
Justin Elswick may be an anomaly in the music industry--a full-time attorney who has somehow found the tenacity and creative inspiration to create a lush and innovative e-pop vocal album under the Sleepthief moniker. Cultivating his deep love of epic, transcendent-style electronic / worldbeat / ethereal music and collaborating with his wish-liist of amazing vocalists, Justin has forged one of the most breathtaking debut albums in recent memory.
Originally from Southern California, Justin became obsessed with music at the age of four when his parents bought him a Fisher Price record player for Christmas. Although his parents were unable to afford piano lessons, Justin would always find a way to play with his grandmother's old piano. His love of music also translated into various DJ gigs during high school and college. However, it was not until age 19 that Justin finally taught himself the rudiments of music theory and songwriting.
Although in love with music, Justin also focused on his formal educational pursuits. After obtaining his B.A. degree in History, Justin moved to Dublin, Ireland where he studied for and was awarded a Masters of Philosophy from the University of Dublin, Trinity College. Upon returnining to the United States, Justin attended the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University.
Since graduating from law school, Justin has worked as an attorney in Provo, Utah. His practice areas include intellectual property, commercial and business transactions, and appellate work. For the last several years, Justin has also written numerous reviews as a music critic for Musical Discoveries. It is through his work with Musical Discoveries that Justin became acquainted with many of the esteemed vocalists who appear on The Dawnseeker.
After writing several songs and with co-producer Israel Curtis, Justin had plans on using one vocalist to complete his album. Fortunately this was not to be the case for The Dawnseeker as it now had a life of its own. Through his contacts with Musical Discoveries, Justin synced up with each artist--amassing his dream list of vocalists he had hoped would be interested in working with him on the Sleepthief project. What started as a daydream fantasy has slowly morphed into an opus of an album with a literal who's who in the world of electronica's leading ladies. The mixing of the album yielded surprises around every corner with each vocalist involved--every song cultivating its own essence.
From the first few tracks to the album's completion, Justin's focus has been on emotive, dream-laden music that enlightens the senses. His songs tend to use a lot of minor chords giving a slight melancholy feel but convey a wide and epic resonance that makes you want to cry and be joyful at the same time. "I love music that creates the inexpressible feeling of intense longing" Justin said and has delivered with such songs as "Eurydice" and "Sublunar."
Songs were built up only to be stripped bare. What started as instrumental only songs began to breathe new life with the addition of vocals. Each vocalist had varying degrees of involvement with their songs--from Laruen Edman and Caroline Lavelle both contributing writing and singing duties--to "Desire of Ages" written by Israel that fit so well it had to be included, with Harland's lyrics and melody as the finishing touches. Justin worked very closely with each contributing artist, speaking in depth about his feelings behind the music resulting in something that is heartfelt with conviction.
While there will certainly be comparisons drawn to other female fronted electronica music, Justin does acknowledge his predecessors and establishes his own unique sound on his journey of self discovery. Sleepthief has created his own niche and unique sound-from the expansive and exotic to Celtic flavor; from jazz and trip hop to full-on drum and bass--he's designed his masterpiece based on how he feels. People will like the music or not based on its merits. If fans of Balligomingo and Delerium like his music, great! The only thing certain is a modern day Renaissance man with an impressive body of work wrapped in the Sleepthief package which speaks for itself.
Not since the Balligomingo album Beneath The Surface have we had such a vast collection of stunning female vocalists accompanying equally enticing electronic arrangements. Sleepthief's debut album The Dawnseeker (Neurodisc Records (USA) NRO 32069-2, 2006) has thirteen tracks that can also be called aural nectar and sonic ambrosia. Yes, the album is auditory nirvana. The trend has been to sell music on itunes and on other online platforms.
Whatever words fans ultimately select, it is likely that all will agree that this long-awaited full-length debut release by Sleepthief sets a new benchmark in the genre of electro-pop music. It may even be fair to say that, in terms of sheer listenability, Sleepthief's debut surpasses both Balligomingo's debut and Delerium's more recent efforts.
Without question, vocalists Jody Quine (who contributes three tracks), Shelley Harland, Nicola Hitchcock, Kyoko Baertsoen, Kirsty Hawkshaw, Kristy Thirsk, Caroline Lavelle, Roberta Carter Harrison, Jerri Eckert, Lauren Edman and San.Drine have elevated The Dawnseeker to a higher plane by contributing some of the most lush and crystaline singing ever recorded. This album is simply a "must have" for any fan of female vocal-based music. Our artist by artist review follows.
Jody Quine: Jody opens The Dawnseeker with Eurydice, a lush while delicate electronic masterpiece. Singing a very memorable melody, Quine's crystalline vocals enunciate the lyrics perfectly. Jody's lovely harmony layers soar in the background delicately adding a lovely texture against the rhythmic arrangement. In the middle of the album, Jody returns with "Tenuous," a gentler ballad, with vastly reaching orchestral-style arrangements. Listen for her soaring harmony layers throughout. Tension builds in the verse and is perfectly released in the lush chorus. In the run up to the album's conclusion, Jody returns with the stunning "Kiss To Savor." Harmony layers echo while the melody built alongside a powerfully delivered lead. This lushly arranged upbeat track is a tribute to the Jody Quine and Justin Elswick collaboration.
Harland: Immediately following Jody Quine's first number, extended tribal instrumentals and vocals introduce Harland's "Desire Of Ages," a stunning piece of electronica, perfectly arranged for the singer. Lush orchestration provides the foundation upon which Harland's delicate and whispy lead vocal delivers the lyrical message. Slight harmony layers produce a lovely texture in the verse and more thickly arranged harmonies underscore the memorable chorus.
Nicola Hitchcock: The singer's unique vibrato-laden lead vocal jumps off the recording atop gentle electronic arrangements in the ballad "You Did A Good Thing." A lone acoustic guitar works against lushly arranged strings during instrumental breaks. Thicker arrangments blend well with Nicola's vast range of harmony layers in the chorus and middle eight.
Kyoko Baertsoen: Although Kyoko found it difficult to compare her track "Just Say It" to other music she's performed, there is a remarkable resemblence to some of her work with Lunascape. The upbeat arrangement perfectly supports Kyoko's vocal treatment. As with many of the tracks on this album, the lead is perfectly mixed above both instrumentals and harmony layers. The chorus melody is most memorable and accessible. We especially appreciated the wide range of the electronic orchestration within the track.
Kirsty Hawkshaw: One of the key differences between this album and other electronica referenced in the article is the vast range of styles that Justin Elswick has included. "The Chauffeur" is a pop-rock vocal arranged with electronic instrumentation and the sound produced is altogether different than anything else on the album. Again, tension is built up in the verse and released in the memorable chorus. While the track may not strike all listeners as positively as the other songs on first listen, with repeated plays, the hook will secure everyone's attention.
Kristy Thirsk: While Jody Quine's tracks are the foundation of the album and serve as highlights, Kristy Thirsk's "Sublunar (Sweet Angel)" is clearly the album's standout track. Lush and fast-paced, Delerium-esque electronic arrangements provide a rhythmic and melodic base for Kristy's crystalline vocals. Her lead vocal is layered, and further harmonies soar to the edges of Kristy's vast range. Additional vocal scat adds to the instrumental arrangement. The lead in the verse is delicately sung with lush harmonies echoing in the background. This is a very dense track and a wonderful testament to Justin and Kristy's work together. Bravo!
Caroline Lavelle: In sharp contrast to the other vocalists on the album, Caroline Lavelle's "Nightjar" is a dark, brooding and bluesy ballad, perfectly suited for the singer's distictive voice. Strings, percussion and electronics blend perfectly against the solo vocal line. We especially enjoyed the way Caroline's vocal line was arranged almost without harmonies, relying exclusively on arrangements for the texture within this stunning track. The strings--as one would expect in any Caroline Lavelle track--in the instrumental break are especially notable.
Roberta Carter Harrison: The track "Fire From Heaven" builds upon "Nightjar" driving the bluesy texture further. Roberta's voice works well with the brooding instrumental. Her additional vocal layers work against rhythmic keyboards, drum and bass to produce an intriguing and with repeated plays, an enjoyable track.
Jerri Eckert: Upbeat electronics provide the foundation for Jerri Eckert's treatment of "The Metro." As the album moves towards the conclusion, Jerri's higher and more crystalline voice, works well in delivering a pop-oriented sound. Some vocal processing on her lead was used to add texture to the song, but her harmonies sound clear and add to the lushness of the track. The upbeat, dance-oriented instrumental break gives hints that a club remix of the song might draw significant attention.
Lauren Edman: Clearly the most distinctive track on the album is Lauren Edman's "Afterthoughts," a rhythmic and Celtic influenced number, most reminscent of Enya's music in many ways. Lauren's voice is crytalline throughout--in lead and lush, multi-tracked harmony--layers. The verse is delivered very delicately against light electronics. The chorus is rich, rhythmic and layered with vocals coming at the listener from every direction. A masterpiece.
San.Drine: As one would assume from the title, "Entre Ciel et Mer" is sung by San.Drine in French. It is a gentle ballad, sung evocatively in San.Drine's whispy vocals. Rich orchestration builds under the lead vocal as the chorus approaches. Then additional vocal layers appear to add texture to the melody. Rhythmic, percussive instrumentals underscore San.Drine's delicate vocal delivery. The song builds to a lovely crescendo that after the fade brings the album to its conclusion.
The thirteen tracks on Sleepthief's debut album The Dawnseeker not only illustrate the talents of eleven stunning vocalists whose stories are contained in the interviews available above, but also the stunning composition and production talents of Justin Elswick and Israel Curtis. Sleepthief clearly have a very bright future. With several new songs
already penned for their next album, the world awaits to discover and fully appreciate this masterpiece. The album is presently available for download at iTunes and the CD has a street date of June 27, 2006--Russ Elliot in New York