Wilsen’s I Go Missing In My Sleep is the finest folk debut of 2017. That’s almost all you need to know about it, the record itself will suck you in with the tenderness and quiet of Tamsin Wilson’s hypnotic voice before you even know a single thing about the band. Most reading this probably don’t, but the group first emerged back in 2013 and have been steadily and meticulously constructing their fully-realized dream-folk debut ever since. In the four years though, some of the initial spotlight on the band dimmed a bit. Yet, it’s hard to imagine public perception holds much priority for a record that is focused on such inward matters.
Wilson is the primary songwriter and vocalist for the group, so even though she constructs the tracks here from tiny melodies into their whirring, momentous finished versions with her bandmates Drew Arndt and Johnny Simon, the name and her narration keep her at the center. Neither Arndt or Simon seem to have any qualms about working in the background, and their ability to frame Tamsin is part of what makes Sleep such a compelling album; rarely can a trio keep their sound balanced so neatly and dynamically. This has always been best exhibited on their finest song to date, the ode to transformation “Dusk” which appears here in a wider, more ominous version.
It’s impossible to leave this record be at the doorstep of “folk” without commenting on the enormous, electrifying and elegant synths, drums, and guitars that elevate it far beyond simple acoustic sounds — though that doesn’t eclipse moments when a slow, spare whistle carries the entire song, as on “Final.” It’s a folk record sheathed in the armor of dream pop, the fantastic evolution of an urge toward the quiet turned all the way up and shot through with power. Wilson’s lyrics lend themselves to folk and its obsession with time, and Arndt and Simon keep the colors of their instruments in the deep blue green softness that evokes the acoustic, even when it builds far beyond that realm.
Sleep is a sweetly devastating record, one that finds tiny minutes of feeling and expands them into marvelous mini-dramas. “Did the dark swallow you whole? / Did the sea get your goat?” Wilson sings on “Otto,” and though she isn’t unmoved, her question is not strung with the desolation that unexpected leaving can bring. Self-assured even at its most sad, Sleep was written mostly in the early morning in a Brooklyn apartment that Wilson describes as an “incubator.”
The songs have the intimacy of infancy reaching toward you, the blush of new life wrapped right around the power and fascination of the act of creation. They are also deeply sad, nudging at the unravelings of hearts and lives, peeling away at blistering skin until air hits the rawness of the wound. But, the emphasis remains on the feeling of the air, not the wound, the act of exploration, not the quiet of sleep. I corresponded with Tamsin via email to talk about the long process of releasing their debut and some of the backstory behind the record.