Sleap-e – 8106

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Sleap-e is reclaiming herself. The Italian singer-songwriter’s second album, 8106, captures the spirit of play; the child-like instinct to pursue what you love without compromise – and here it is, that particular magic that rarely survives adulthood, remarkably intact.
Each of its eleven songs are sharp, vibrant shards which, when you step back, build a mosaic of Asia Martina Morabito’s world: the growing pains of your early twenties, remaining faithful to your dreams despite the hostility of adulthood, places of escape both real and imagined – and the pulse of Bologna, her home and north star.
Asia has always had an unwavering focus on what she wanted. “I was a child who would never shut up,” she recalls, “I was always singing.” She took to instruments effortlessly. Piano as a child led to love affairs with the guitar and bass as a teenager which both calmed and communicated the storms that would brew in her head. And so Sleap-e was born: a project as necessary as it was effortless.
What emerged on the stages of Bologna in 2018, even in those formative years, was a singular storyteller who lingered on the edge of the dancefloor; wallflower confessions teased out with self-described “bossa cat-punk” and scruffy, spirited anti-folk.
As a student of old-school iconoclasts like The Fall and inspired by the outsider streak of Jimmy Whispers and Daniel Johnston, it was not any particular musical quality of theirs which Asia wanted to channel in Sleap-e, but their confidence to “explode in a raw, free and authentic way.” Though her sound has shifted from the tender bedroom pop of her 2020 EP Mellow and her 2022 debut album Pouty Lips which was bedecked with jubilant brass and Mediterranean rhythms, it’s her self-belief which endures. 8106 is Sleap-e’s most raucous, unpolished and playful offering to date, steeped in the influence of “egg-punk”, an internet-grown genre which seeks to satirise the tropes of punk with its danceable irreverence. There is joy to be found, Asia feels, in refusing to conform, and it has brought her closer to herself than ever before.
But to gain her sense of self, first, she had to lose sight of it. Summer of 2023, when the outlines of the record were made, was a difficult time for her. 8106 was the number of the hotel room she felt confined to, alone and adrift from comfort when she was working away from home.
Watch Sleap-e’s music videos, and many of them are love letters to the minutiae of her life in Bologna, visual scrapbooks of its streets and food; the trains passing by in the night and the gentle flutter of her bedroom curtains in the morning, down to her cat hiding in her bed sheets and a slug on the pavement outside. Trapped within the four, bland walls of Room 8106, there was nothing to hold onto.
Asia felt a loss of purpose: “I felt so lonely, so lost – I wasn’t taking care of myself. Sometimes, in order to feel close to yourself and who you are, you need to be far away from home and miss what you already have.”
Writing this album was her getaway car. “It represents an important choice I made,” she explains. “I chose happiness. I chose myself.” The title represents a kind of mental post-it note reminding herself to stay focused on what she loves; it’s a talisman to protect her from hard times. She returned home, and there she began recording the album in residency at the Bronson Club, a hive of like-minded creatives and mentors who helped it take its final form. At home, her own music was played freely and instinctively. The artwork for 8106 is by Noemi Vola, a prolific Bolognian illustrator and author who specialises in designs for children, which reflects the “funky, fairytale mood” of the record itself.
Her lyrics are more carefree than ever, leaning into the hyper-specific to gesture towards something that can be universally felt. “Poetry” is an ode to sharing halloumi fries with a close friend over literature, speaking to those particular moments and relationships in our lives which nourish us.
It’s carried by a swaggering, old-school rhythm that gives it a cartoonish spirit not unlike the sounds of Warmduscher and Fat White Family which influenced the album’s DNA.
The eyebrow-raising “Leave My Bum Alone” captures Sleap’e’s frivolity like lightning in a bottle. With runaway guitars and her vocals cresting and dipping as if on a rollercoaster, it arrives as an explosion.
Explaining the title, she says, “It means, ‘Please, God, let me be happy. It was a prayer to myself to keep going, continue to be happy and have fun.” Wearing a knitted hat with devil horns, the accompanying music video is a rough-around-the-edges translation of Asia’s gift for mischief and, above all else, fun.
But while 8106 represents an act of escapism, there are moments where she confronts the darker moments head-on. The buoyancy of “No Joke” counteracts situations where Asia felt out of step with the world, an outsider and self-proclaimed “weirdo” disinterested in falling in line with what’s expected of her. “It’s about deciding to not sacrifice yourself and your value for something meaningless,” she explains. “It’s perfectly in line with the soul of this album and project: the desire to explode in a raw, free, authentic way.”
The album’s closing title track sees Asia, at last, address herself. It ebbs with a soft-dying tenderness, an admission of vulnerability on a record built to transform dire circumstances. It talks of night-time blues and cigarettes, those quiet hours when we face ourselves. “In the song I talk to myself, this person who is losing their own world, because I felt just like that. I wasn’t choosing myself so I got angry with myself. It’s about sadness and rage, but more than that, this need to live: to go away and change things – to love myself.”

releases March 22, 2024

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