Philadelphia’s Tulipomania, bearing the moniker of those 17th-century Dutch flower traders of the titular bloom, are back with a vengeance on their fifth studio album, Dreaming of Sleep, dropped via Sursumcorda Records.
Throughout their journey, these art-rock virtuosos have been labeled everything from cult synth punks to glam-leaning post-punk icons, and even as purveyors of muscular chamber pop. But with Dreaming of Sleep, they dive headfirst into an electronic odyssey, pushing their sound into new, uncharted territories. The album is a bold step in a direction that blends their signature style with fresh electronic experimentation. Gritty guitars that taste like they’ve been soaking in a marinade of moody introspection? Check. A rhythm section with the brooding charisma of a classic film noir hero? Absolutely. All this serves as a canvas for vocals so rich and immersive, they practically dare you to try cutting through the dense atmosphere they create.
In this latest offering, Tulipomania channels the spirits of legends like Wolfgang Press, Wire, and Pere Ubu, with a nod to the likes of Ultra Vivid Scene, Cabaret Voltaire, and Alan Vega. It’s an eclectic mix, sure, but one that Tulipomania blends into a sound distinctly their own. Dreaming of Sleep is a genre-bending,nhypnotic blend of the past and the present, proving that Tulipomania continues to be a force to be reckoned with.
Dreaming Of Sleep comes at you like an espresso double shot, each synth line jolting your senses awake with an undercurrent of tension – a claustrophobic buzz as intense as a packed elevator in mid-July. Yet, in this band’s hands, dystopia doesn’t spell doom. Instead, it’s laced with a dash of intrigue and a sprinkle of creativity that ignites the imagination.
Their riffs, meanwhile, have a mesmerizing quality, undulating through your consciousness like a soothing deep-sea serenade. The lyrics serve as cryptic puzzles, shrouded in mystery, inviting you to put on your detective hat and plunge into the depths of their haunting, hypnotic world.
“Musically, the album feels like an interpretive dance to me,” says Tom Murray. “A reaction to overwhelming anxiety and frustration – while also mirroring and grappling with this ridiculous anxious age we are living in. Lyrically, consciously, and subconsciously, the themes of loss, frustration and fear are I think clearly on display – with anger, disbelief and a realization of a total lack of control or even influence beyond what we could exert on the instrumentation.”
“The music and the animations that support it explore outrage, powerlessness – and the knowing kind of sorrow that emerges from those states of mind – often in bursts of absurdity,” says Cheryl Gelover, who first her bandmate through experimental film and animation classes. “Being aware of the ridiculous often feels like salvation.”
“We tried to use only the first takes of any performances or musical ideas as much as possible,” says Murray. “Vocals were recorded in one or two takes in almost every case. We wanted to make everything about the groove and the song. We wanted to not be tempted to use instrumentation we are already comfortable with. I think this lack of control and slight on-edge process pairs well with the music and lyrics.”
In the realm of animated music videos, Tulipomania is ripping up the rulebook, crafting visuals that are as mind-bendingly inventive as they are drop-dead gorgeous. Then and Only Then is a seamless fusion of fresh and vintage footage, meticulously shot frame by laborious frame and layered onto sheets of black paper. This short hit the screens at the CutOut Fest International Festival of Animation and Digital Art: a testament to Tulipomania’s knack for melding throwback techniques with storytelling prowess.
You Had To Be There explores the genre futher, animating torn pieces of paper on black background in a Dadaist extravaganza.
Dreaming Of Sleep, wrapped in the visually striking cover art by Michael Speed of Beggars Group London, marks a significant collaboration with legendary executive producer Howard Thompson. Known for his work with icons like Adam and the Ants, Billy Bragg, MC5, Motörhead, PiL, Psychedelic Furs, Robyn Hitchcock, The Sugarcubes, and Suicide, Thompson brings his rich legacy to the band’s sound.