Arms and Sleepers' Mirza Ramic on Radiohead

MacEagon Voyce
September 18, 2020

I don't recall who introduced me to Arms and Sleepers. I do know it was around 2011, because I remember how their then new release, The Organ Hearts, caught me mid-stride during my minor obsession with downtempo and trip-hop. My old auto-generated iTunes Top 25 Most Played playlist would've shown mostly tracks by Massive Attack, Portishead, Zero 7, Air, Sneaker Pimps, et al. And The Organ Hearts fit right in.

It wasn't until earlier this year that a friend reintroduced me to the band, revealing a prolific past decade amidst an especially prolific year. On July 31, via {int}erpret null, Arms and Sleepers released Memory Loops, already the third installment of a six-part 2020 series, adding to the full-length Safe Area Earth, the EP Eastern Promises, and the impromptu quarantine album Leviathan (In Times Of).

The theme of the series is "self-destruction," with Memory Loops representing the human psyche. As such it invokes a slightly different character than The Organ Hearts, veering further toward the ambient and post-classical genres. It's an outfit the duo has worn before, namely on Cinematique (2007) and Nostalgia For The Absolute (2011), and it's a welcome aural respite from life in a damaged world. Amidst the chaos, amidst tendencies for self-destruction, A&S offer a moment for reflection, where the human psyche can pause and imagine a calmer, more attuned world.

For his Algorhythm, one half of the band—Mirza Ramic—remembers how discovering OK Computer united him with a then unlikely comrade, one who would eventually become his creative partner in Arms and Sleepers...

I suppose one of the most important musical discoveries for me, as predictable as it may be, was Radiohead. But even more important was the person that introduced me to Radiohead: Max [Lewis], the other half of Arms and Sleepers. We went to the same artsy high school in Boston, Massachusetts but weren’t friends at all. I played a lot of sports and did theater while he was taking guitar lessons and was a bit of a prankster. He knew that I liked music and played instruments myself, but I have no idea why one day he came up to me after school and handed me a burned CD copy of Radiohead’s OK Computer. He just said, “you should listen to this.” In many ways, that moment was life-changing for me. OK Computer sparked a new music curiosity and I haven’t looked back since. It’s probably the album I’ve listened to the most in my life and the album that has had the most profound effect on my own ambitions as a musician. But it was also the beginning of a new and close friendship that would eventually turn into Arms and Sleepers, the music project that Max and I started in 2006 and which is still my primary focus today. That encounter between us seems so random when I think about it today, but I guess he must have sensed some kind of a friendship potential despite our many personal differences. That moment led to us starting a bunch of bands together and eventually deciding to just make music ourselves as Arms and Sleepers. Even though Max is not as involved in Arms and Sleepers these days, we continue to be very close and the DNA of our 15-year old music project is in that unsuspecting high school encounter.

As alluded to above, you can expect a number of further releases from Arms and Sleepers before the year's out. In the meantime, give Memory Loops a spin, and listen to our full Algorhythms playlist here.

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