In addition to her long-standing relationship with techno, Dasha Rush no stranger to experimental electronic music—and Sleepstep is an impressive and highly conceptual culmination of her various talents and past projects. Its intention is to create a dream-like state that explores the liminal space where the waking world overlaps with sleep (and vice versa). The album's production and sound design is on a level with the likes of Pole as well as Vladislav Delay, Alva Noto, and the rest of Raster-Noton's past and present roster; silence, noise, spatial awareness, and sonic decay are used with a meticulous finesse that brings Rush's slumberous hinterland to life.
More conventional dancefloor-oriented techno is vaguely hinted at on “Abandoned Beauties and Beasts,” but its churning atmospherics never give way to a proper beat. “100 Hearts” also explores minimalist, sci-fi techno sans drum machine; bleeps flicker like distant antennas, or like city lights over breathy pads, as bursts of noise spontaneously clack across the mix like shooting stars. Dub techno and reggae form the backbone of “Scratching Your Surface (Revisited)” and “Antares,” while “Fog, Dogma, and Bread” approaches similar territory, but somewhat ambiguously with a strong ambient bent. “Sleep Ballade” and “Lumiere Avant Midi” draw us further into a semi-lucid state with their melancholic ebb and flow forming a meditative, slow lope.
Dasha Rush's voice shines on “Sail Away To Her,” where it takes the form of operatic drones that anchor the track's softly burbling arpeggios and strings to create one of Sleepstep's best and most emotional moments. On “Dance with Edgar Poe” and “Life Time Poem,” her spoken-word lyrics form the focus of the track, and at times are a bit distracting from all the lovely instrumental elements also occurring, but they never completely overtake and undermine the music. Finally, album closer “Outer Space” leaves us with a suitably celestial wash of mechanical sounds that elongate and fade away into distant nothingness. At last…sleep has arrived.