As it turns out, The Dude also reclines.
Jeff Bridges’ new album, “Sleeping Tapes”, was designed with the sole intention of soothing you to sleep. Also, to raise money and awareness for No Kid Hungry. The album is available as a pay-what-you-want download at dreamingwithjeff.com, and all of the proceeds go to the organization.
You could call this an “album,” though, in only the loosest sense of the word. What we have here is a bizarre, humorous, meandering ramble through the far-out mind of the Academy Award-winning actor and life-long musical dabbler.
Bridges has released records before – a handful of country-folk collections with his band the Abiders, as well as all of the singing for his role as washed-up country has-been Otis “Bad” Blake in the 2009 movie True Grit – but never anything like this. Sleeping Tapes is a stretched-out aural collage, led by Bridges’ gravelly grumble of a voice and an array of synthesizer pulses and whooshes.
Some tracks are under a minute long, while other portions stretch up to 11 minutes, but the segmentation is mostly artificial. Listening straight through, there’s really no way to distinguish any moment from another.
A warm, glowing tone, resonating like a Himalayan singing bowl, opens “Introduction (Good Evening),” lazily followed several seconds later by the sound of Bridges sliding out from under the covers and padding his feet down onto the floor. “These are the sleeping tapes. I hope they inspire you to do some cool sleeping,” he half-mumbles towards the end of a monologue punctuated by thoughtful pauses and comfortable chuckles.
Bridges’ speech is meandering and familiar, giving the entire album a genuine immediacy. Such a bizarre project runs the risk of becoming a self-indulgent ego trip for a big-time actor who is in love with the sound of his own voice, but Bridges’ amiable tone, mellowed-out tangents ensure that the whole thing reads like the explorations of an enthused tinkerer.
On “Sleep. Dream. Wakeup,” he repeats the titular triad until it becomes mantra, his multi-tracked intonation splitting and layering into a sort of blissed-out Gregorian chant as dulcet chime glissandos ebb and flow underneath.
“Hummmmmm” is exactly as advertised: Bridges introduces you to his method for calming down in between filming scenes. “My makeup man … gets a kick out of this,” he says before launching into two minutes of murmured arpeggios. The very next segment, “Goodmorning, Sweetheart,” documents Bridges’ attempts to convince his wife Susan to hum for the tape as the two make breakfast together. You can hear forks clink and the coffee maker burble, while gentle, airy synthesizer whooshes pour into the spaces in between.
In a later track, Bridges offers you a glass of water, then shares the following: “I don’t know, if you’re like me, you drink a glass of water before you got to bed, you’re getting up a couple times during the night. But that’s okay.” Then he waxes poetic about looking out the window at the full moon during one of the nighttime bathroom visits. On “Feeling Good,” Bridges offers a string of pre-bedtime compliments, including, “You are very good at guessing when a traffic light will turn green,” his euphonious near-whisper offered in a steady, unhurried cadence.
A lot of the focus so far has been on Bridges’ mellifluous voice, but the producers’ contributions deserve a share of the spotlight, too. Bridges recruited the talents of composer Keefus Ciancia (who’s worked on projects as varied as “The Hunger Games” soundtrack and Elton John and Leon Russell’s “The Union”) and mastering engineer Doug Sax (Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” the Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers,” among many others), and the two have created a beautiful, eerie soundscape replete with subtle textures and exotic ephemera.
Thunderclaps and gentle rain at the end of “The Raven” give way to a bumblebee saxophone at the outset of “The Hen.” As Bridges’ relates his plans to have his remains installed in an Earth-orbiting satellite following his death, the actor’s voice splits ever-so-slightly into Human Jeff and Cyborg Jeff. The tension is reminiscent of the microscopically delayed echoing and splitting David Bowie employed to make the chorus of 1980’s “Ashes to Ashes” so subtly disconcerting.
Perhaps the most successful and intriguing synthesis of Ciancia and Sax’s artistry and Bridges’ meandering genius is the 11-minute “Temescal Canyon,” in which you and Bridges take a Bridges-narrated trek through the titular California valley. You stumble upon some Spanish doubloons in a stream, grass crunches beneath your feet, the creek burbles happily and a train bellows in the distance. The trip culminates in a return journey via hang glider, with Bridges waving to friends on the way down.
What’s it all about? Who knows? But even if you reach for meaning and come back empty-handed, it’s refreshing to see someone try purely for the sake of trying something new.

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