In recent years, a new landscape has been taking shape in the hip hop and R&B scene with the increasing popularity of electronic music and the availability of cheap or free production programs which produce new and interesting sounds. This has given birth to more and more “indie” hip hop being produced, and thus more possibilities for what the genre can sound like have emerged. Femme Sleep is a new and exciting example of this phenomenon, as he merges electronica-inspired beats with hip hop hooks and R&B vocals, plus lots of experimental sounds.
Andrew Boudreau, originally from Boston and now an arts student at MICA in Baltimore, has taken on the moniker of Femme Sleep and is in the middle of another digital music trend, the “song-a-day” project. Bands and individual producers alike take on this challenge via Soundcloud or Bandcamp and release one song per day for a pre-determined period of time. On top of keeping the artist relevant and their followers on these platforms high, it is a chance for musicians to push themselves both creatively and motivationally and show their diversity to both themselves and the world.
Boudreau as Femme Sleep just finished the third month of his song-a-day project, the most recent month having been recorded between October 12 and November 11. A full two months’ worth of songs is available to stream on his Soundcloud and Bandcamp pages. His daily song project is slightly different from some artists in that for each month released, songs were written, recorded, mixed and produced in 31 consecutive 24-hour periods. Then the whole “month” was then released on Soundcloud as a “mixtape.” By Boudreau’s doing this, listeners know that they are not just getting songs from the artist’s back catalog or a song which took six months to write and record. Boudreau also started a label, called Tall Bed Records, under which all these tracks have been released.
Femme Sleep’s concept of electronica-based hip hop is, of course, different from many of the other artists who work in this experimental genre. With 62 tracks on Soundcloud to sample, it also seems his style and tastes vary quite a bit, even within the confines of producing 31 tracks in 31 days. Sometimes he leans toward DJ Shadow-style Mushroom Jazz, while other tracks are even more experimental. Many of the songs contain random field recordings, for which Boudreau seems to have a soft spot. The songs are largely short and instrumental in nature. Some of the songs seem to make sense to their titles and are intended to have a certain mood or theme, while others are left to the listener to interpret.
The Month 3 playlist seems a little more bright and varied than Month 2, as Femme Sleep combines high-pitched samples and more melodies, and even some house beats. Day 5: Sherbert Brother, for example, starts off with a fun straight beat and lots of bleeps and bloops. It sounds like what a happy robot might dance to. Then the playlist quickly merges into Day 6: Full, which is completely different. With lots of field recording samples and a trap-style beat, this track sounds like it was produced on a Moog and so has a melancholy air organ sound to it, though the melody is cheerful. Day 7: Inna follows directly after and is nothing but organized field recordings, with sounds of birds, city noises and what sounds like the tone which sounds when someone is walking over a door sensor in a shop. All of these songs are mixed together and merge into one another, which is why Boudreau calls each month a “mixtape.”
Month 2 is worth mentioning as well, as it shows the different place Femme Sleep may have been in both musically and personally when it was created. The “Day 2” track of this run, called Basquiat, though entirely instrumental, uses samples and quick snares which conjure up images of aerosol paint cans being shaken, and one can almost picture “SAMO” being scrawled on a wall by Jean-Michel Basquiat. The song also contains quite a few samples of static and noise, possibly reflecting some of the inner struggles of Basquiat, and indeed every artist.
Just because he finished Month 3 of his song-a-day project does not mean Boudreau is slowing down. He recently released a video for a new song called Animal on Tall Bed’s Youtube channel. Animal is yet another departure for Femme Sleep, as it is probably his most cohesive track to date. With a deep house beat and full lyrics, this track seems to blend many of Boudreau’s techniques as well as combining ambient tones with slightly R&B tinged lyrics and hip hop snares. The video itself features two men in an apartment and follows in a continuous shot while one man jumps around and destroys everything in the house, and the other follows him around picking things up and re-ordering each room. With the lyrics discussing the idea that everyone has an animal lurking somewhere inside them, it is easy to see where the inspiration for the video lies.
Boudreau has said that the song-a-day project and in fact all his music, including the field recording samples, is very personal. Despite some of the tracks being obscure and instrumental, listeners will be able to piece together the themes of artistic struggle, impulse versus emotional control, and how the world outside interacts with the emotional inner world. It is a unique and very interesting project Femme Sleep has embarked upon, and each of these “mixtapes,” each song, in fact, will elicit a different feeling from the audience. On the macrocosm, each listener may indeed experience each moment a little differently, and if there is a main theme to the Femme Sleep project, it may be that. The subjectivity of life seems to be what fascinates Boudreau, and with Femme Sleep it seems he is hoping to capture a little of what he experiences in his own world, both internal and external, and share it to make a connection with others.
Month 3 and Month 2 are available on Femme Sleep’s Soundcloud page for streaming, and all the tracks from Month 2 are available to download on Soundcloud as well. Month 3’s tracks are available for purchase on Femme Sleep’s Bandcamp page with a “name your price” option. Links to both sites are listed in “Sources.”
Review by Layla Klamt