Arms and Sleepers - former kingdoms

07 May 2022 - Jonas

Trip-Hop / Hip-Hop | SlyVinyl Records / DXFXWXU Collective | Release date: 10 May 2022

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I don’t like dancing – Period. I just don’t vibe that way. However, in the case of Arms and Sleepers, it’s literally impossible not to dance – I love it, and as luck would have it, he’s releasing his new album, ‘former kingdoms’, just in time for the Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, settling any worries you might have had about not finding the perfect soundtrack for those sweltering months!

Arms and Sleepers is a curious case. Ever since I became involved with the ’post-music’ scene back in the mid-to-late ‘00s, he, or they (used to be a duo), have somehow been associated with it, despite not operating within that same sphere, not really. It’s basically been trip-hop to various degrees since the beginning. I mean, sure. There’s certainly been some atmospheric elements, like on Matador (2009), which I guess could be construed as ‘ambient’ music, but that’s about it. One year, I even recall catching a live interview with Mirza Ramic, the now sole proprietor of the Arms and Sleepers project, at dunk!festival in Belgium, where I got the feeling that he, himself, was perplexed as to why they had been adopted by this particular scene considering how different they were from the rest of the bands performing. I, for one, am very grateful that this has been the case because I imagine this terrific act would’ve gone below my radar otherwise and my life would’ve been lesser for it.

While I’ve gotten into trip-hop a lot more in recent years, I first learned to appreciate beats back in the late ‘90s when I truly fell in love with a genre for the first time, namely hip-hop, which is something I’ve carried with me throughout the years even though I don’t listen to it as much as I used to, and this is where Arms and Sleepers excel – The beats. Throughout the years, Ramic has had this knack for combining uplifting beats with vocal samples in a way that makes it impossible not to move while listening, a recipe he’s also implemented and improved upon on his new album, former kingdoms.

The overarching theme behind this album is basically how Ramic’s family fled a Bosnia and Herzegovina left in ruins after years of war, back in the mid-‘90s, hoping to build a life somewhere else, namely in the US, and Ramic’s impressions of this unknown new environment, as perceived by a young teenager from a wide variety of aspects. While I can’t personally relate to any of what I can only imagine was a pretty traumatic experience, I’m still somehow feeling nostalgic listening to this album. It somehow brings me back to those hot summer days back in the late ‘90s, during my own ‘formative’ teenage years, thinking I had life, love, and everything in-between all figured out, which I obviously hadn’t, but it was a period where ignorance was bliss.

Compared to some of his other albums Swim Team (2014) and Safe Area Earth (2020), this album feels considerably more downtempo and laid back, like there’s a soft blanket of comfort and warmth spread out through the entire tracklist. Downtempo, I say, yet it’s strangely upbeat at the same time, or rather uplifting. I know, as a writer I should be able to put my thoughts and emotions into words, and yet I’m struggling with this one. It’s like some sort of aural déjà vu, where I’ve attached certain sounds to specific memories some 20+ years ago. It’s amazing, really.

So, if life’s got you down and if you require a pick-me-up – Look no further! Through some elaborate sonic alchemy, Arms and Sleepers have managed to extract pure serotonin from the ether, to be delivered straight to your ears for instant relief. Put on your best headphones, go for a walk and embrace the warm bliss of these beats. If at all possible, opt for noise-canceling ones so you can just coast through the streets and let the music work its magic on your surroundings.