Tispur sounds as though he belongs in a pastoral setting out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, not in Boise, ID. When Samwise Carlson puts on his Tispur moniker, though, listeners are transported to a mystical place where anxiety, real-world problems, and garden variety boredom are replaced with deep breaths, relaxation, and child-like wonder.
Carlson’s debut album, Sleepy Creature (out today on Obsolete Media Objects) has the vocals of a wispy Neil Young album, the intricate guitar patterns of a Johanna Warren album, and the feel of a sophomore Fleet Foxes album. Using only vocals, guitar, cello, subtle accordion, and piano, Tispur leaves behind the half-flooded concrete basement that Sleepy Creature was recorded in, and enters the fictional dream world where his music lives.
In “Dewhorn,” the album’s first track, Carlson’s fingerpicked guitar part remains constant as cello and keyboard sounds emerge around his guitar gradually. Once listeners are lulled into Tispur’s spell, though, the guitar slows to a stop, and a different guitar pattern emerges with the cello suddenly taking the forefront.
The cello in Tispur’s dream-folk doesn’t feel cheesy, though. Instead, it provides contrast to Carlson’s static guitar rhythms and adds to the emotional and visual landscapes that Carlson evokes throughout the album.
In nearly every track on Sleepy Creature, there’s a moment where you feel as though you’ve traveled through time and space to a completely different sonic environment, almost in a whimsical Alice in Wonderland fashion. Tispur’s use of certain recording techniques certainly adds to this effect.
In “Intermezzo” and “White Maned,” Tispur chops up, rearranges, fast-forwards, rewinds, and reverses instrumental and vocal parts. And in doing so, he transcends from the singer-songwriter stereotype to a more expansive, other-worldly realm that keeps you intrigued, engaged, and in a constant state of awe.
Here’s the thing, though: Even though these effects can seem very 21st century and mechanical, he uses them to enhance the musical landscape, not to detract from it. At no point do you feel as though you left Tispur’s nature-inspired, dream-folk world, even when his vocals are in reverse.
While much of Tispur’s album is experimental and aweing, during “White Widow” and “Sleepy Creature,” the album’s title-track, Tispur finally introduces nature sounds. Contrary to what you may think, though, these nature sounds only seem to enhance Tispur’s dream-folk child-like world.
Instead of feeling more connected to real life, you feel as though you are indeed sitting by that babbling brook, surrounded by green northwestern trees, rays of sunshine, and maybe even a mystical fairy or two.
At the beginning of Sleepy Creature’s final track, Carlson hits the tape player and begins playing a nostalgic out-of-tune piano. But by the end, “A Great Forever” feels anything but final. Instead of leaving Tispur’s dream-world, you ask, “What just happened?” and “What happens next?”
Well, based on this debut album, I’m excited to find out.