Can't sleep? Let me tell you a bedtime story..
The story begins sometime in 2010 at 4am on a small island in Indonesia (one of the Gili Islands). I was sleeping in a "A Frame" (a treehouse basically) in a mango orchard and facing my regular demon in life - INSOMNIA 😴😴🙄😴.
My inability to sleep seems to be triggered by various things, stress, lack of exercise, dry air, you name it.. In this case it was a case of noisy neighbours. Roosters to be precise (who loudly proclaimed that dawn was every two hours, a theory which was then vigourously supported by the local dog population).
Nothing blocked the cacophony of noise out. As an insomniac backpacker I was well prepared for this kind of thing too - wax earplugs, noise cancelling headphones , etc.. nothing worked.
I had been travelling the world seeking inspiration for music (I'm a composer and music artist by trade) but even music on top quality noise cancelling headphones (these ones are great) would not work - the problem with music is, even the most relaxing music can get you thinking.. and thinking is the enemy of an insomniac.
But by dawn I had formed an idea. I would make myself a white noise album. Now this wouldn't be your average white noise (there's plenty of that around, and most is of dubious quality) - this would be a beautifully crafted wash of sound which would both block out sound and induce sleep better than anything else out there - an audio tool for insomniacs like me.
Not sleeping at night meant I would often doze on the beach by day, listening to the ocean waves, so with handheld recorders such as my Zoom H2N recorder I started capturing the relaxing sound of the sea, in a series of remote and beautiful locations. I recorded rains of many kinds - monsoons, rain inside a tent.. waterfalls, and all manner of relaxing natural sounds.
Every few days I would gather the best of these 'found sound recordings' and compile them into a long MP3 which I put on my iPod (old school huh!) to help me sleep at night (in various VERY noisy locations - Ko San Road etc). It worked. Over time I would update and improve it. By around 2012 I had something which would literally knock me unconscious within minutes.
For years I kept this thing (SLEEP SOUND) to myself. Not for selfish reasons.. I just never got round to 'finishing' it, or indeed thought it might be of any use to anyone else.
But by approximately 8 years of world travel later I had literally thousands of hours of footage sat on hard drives, and I decided to finally mix them into the ultimate SLEEP SOUND album.
Back in rainy London over many months I went on a mission to meticulously edit the footage down to the very best 3 hours (the album is three hour long tracks - AIR, RAIN & WAVE - which can each be looped, or played in succession (depending on personal preference). Most people don't make awake it past the first 10 minutes in practice)
After doing lots of rather obsessive research on the topic of sleep (/ lack of) I also remembered something I had learned 15 years ago when making my first 'sleep album' (technically) - the childrens album "Lullaby" with Sophie Barker (The Rainbow Collections), which many people have used for years since to help their babies sleep. That was to include the sounds of household things such as fans and hairdryers, as (if recorded correctly) these are proven to make you very sleepy! In this case I slowed them down, blending them with the sounds of washing machines and dishwashers. I even included some underwater sounds I had recorded with a GoPro whilst diving.
(my two biggest fans)
Fellow music nerds will be pleased to hear I also played the sounds through some very nice expensive analogue audio gear (real Neve preamps, Fairchild compressor etc) as well as analog tape to add yet more 'warmth' to the sounds. This 'mixing' process alone was a meticulous process taking many months, with each revision 'road' (or bed) tested by myself and a few other test insomniacs.
The result of all this rather obsessive behaviour? ...
I'm very pleased with it and I hope it helps you finally sleep too. 😴😴