An arresting exploration of the artist’s personal experience of fleeing war-torn Bosnia in the early 1990s, the tragic death of his father in that conflict and how the war in Ukraine echoes these difficult memories, ‘What Tomorrow Brings’ is the breathtaking new full-length release from international artist, producer and prolific creative, Arms and Sleepers.
Formed in 2006 in Boston, Massachusetts and now based in Berlin, Germany; Arms and Sleepers is the electronic trip hop project of producer Mirza Ramic (formerly a duo with Max Lewis), who has subsequently released 13 full albums and 20 EPs of glitched-out grooves that take as much inspiration from leftfield hip hop experimentalism as they do from the slowburn ambience and panoramic euphoria of contemporary post-rock.
His forthcoming 14th full-length album, ‘What Tomorrow Brings’ is a breathtaking aural account that charts the life-changing journey of being forced out of your home over four distinct, musical sections. Initially inspired by watching Kenneth Branagh’s award-winning coming-of-age drama Belfast as the fighting in Ukraine broke out, MIrza found himself reflecting on his own experience as a child and how it has formed the man he is today. As such, the album’s four sections, titled ‘Innocence’, ‘Melancholy’, ‘Rupture’ and ‘Reflection’, serve as the reification of the life and experience that Mirza lost as well as a representation of the identity he has since shaped for himself.
Whereas more recent Arms and Sleepers releases, such as 2022’s full-length ‘former kingdoms’, are peppered with the sultry saxophone refrains, syncopated 16ths and smoky ambience of a New York jazz bar; ‘What Tomorrow Brings’ is instead acute and driving, with complex drum breaks reminiscent of powerful post-rock acts such as BATTLES, Mogwai and Caspian brought insistently and urgently to the fore.
Both taken from the album’s ‘Innocence’ section, instrumental opener ‘Go Now (Don’t Look Back)’ says all that it needs to without saying a word, whilst the following track and half of the record’s leading double single ‘It’s Easy’ tells a deeply personal story. Mirza says that “‘It’s Easy’ was written with my father in mind, who was killed in the war in Bosnia in 1993. I was thinking about how ‘easy’ it could have been for there to not be a war and for people, including my dad, to not be killed senselessly.”
Mirza, however, is also trying hard not to let the past affect his optimism for a better future; “In some ways, it could be very ‘easy’ to avoid war, and so this song was written from the perspective of an innocent, somewhat naïve child for whom something like war and violence make absolutely no sense whatsoever.” The propulsive, kick-heavy beats, haunting piano arpeggios and staccato bass lines of ‘It’s Easy’ drive the track along against all odds as the titular, two-word refrain drifts in and out of focus, as much beautiful found-sound sonic texture as it is masterfully silent storytelling.
An audible crossroads of the boy he was, the person he could’ve been and the man he has since become; ‘What Tomorrow Brings’ is proof that, as Arms and Sleepers, Mirza Ramic continues to blur the boundaries between genre, heritage, expectation and influence in order to produce a collection of music that is new, vital and extraordinary.