French Gothic Electronica form Bedtime Stories to make you pull the duvet up a little closer tonight
For the last two years a French producer called Bedtime Stories has been quietly making a trilogy of albums that falls into the Witch House spectrum. As his name suggests these aren’t bangers, but subtle slow burning pieces that fuse ethereal voices with slightly wonky prog synths, like Bristol’s Ocean Floor, but you know more Gothic. The perfect time to play Bedtime Stories is when the gloaming starts to turn into night and you’re curled up on the sofa reading something, possibly eerie. His latest offering is Universes, and like his previous three albums, Microcalpyse, Serenity, Thanatos, but things feel more lurid and free forming. Here is what Bedtime Stories said himself “Universe seen through human eyes looks like a dream, an endless expensive book of landscapes and possibilities, here pictured in an 11 track album”.
Possession kicks things off with woozy synths, wonky beats and steam like vocals. The main riff is catchy and the hypnotic loop works well to draw us in without realising. There is a slight nod to Baisl Kirchin’s the Abominable Dr. Phibes, but given Bedtime Stories iconography this makes sense. Ethereal Dreams Wendy/Walter Carlos’ Clockwork Orange theme. The bass is bouncy, but there is an underlying threat of malice. The lurid vocals float nicely above everything not getting in the way, but at the same time not letting us hear the subtle flourishes of bass and beats. Wandering touches on that thin line Scott Walker trod with his Tilt album. Falsetto vocals rub shoulders with dark and brooding music. There is a hint of violence, but the fuse wasn’t lit so it all crackles beneath the surface. Walker’s lyrics were the catalyst on his album, but this comes very close to equalling that exquisite album.
Glory is one of the more aggressive tracks one the album, as it is beat driven rather than vocal/synth. As the beat pushes Glory on and on wailing banshee like vocals do everything that can to ground it, while monumental synths swell, throb and pulsate all around it until its delirious outro. Rebirth closes the album with swells of layered operatic vocals and billowing synths. At the title suggests, it sounds like the transference from one being/dimension to another. The sound sounds so bright and clean that you feel you have to squint due to its brightness. Paradise closes the album. Like Possession it’s all woozy synths, wonky beats and steam like vocals. They bookend each other perfectly and make Universes feel like an infinite round that never ends.
Overall Universes sounds like Enigma covering Diva Plavalaguna’s song near the end of Luc Bessons’s the Fifth Element, while being produced by Venetian Snares and remixed by Angelo Badalamenti. But this is a lazy shorthand, there is far much more going on. At times it sounds like an audio representation of Arthur Machen’s Ornaments of Jade vignettes. Each track brings up a different feeling/emotion in you depending on your mood at the time. Some passages sound like the stuff of nightmares, but others feel like the soundtrack to your happiest moments ever. It’s this kind of juxtaposition and dichotomy that is exhilarating and sets Bedtime Stories apart from his Witch House peers. In all fairness this isn’t Witch House at all, it’s more like Gothic Electronica, but overall it doesn’t matter. When music sounds this universally good all that matters is pulling the duvet up a little closer and pressing play again…