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Working the Nightlands shift

For years now, David Hartley has gone to sleep with a Radio Shack standard cassette deck cocked and ready on his nightstand.

For years now, David Hartley has gone to sleep with a Radio Shack standard cassette deck cocked and ready on his nightstand. The second he wakes, he records the first thing that comes to mind — inspired, nonsensical or just weird. “You have to do it the second you wake up. Sometimes I would listen back and it would just be babbling — speaking in tongues basically,” he says with a laugh.

Recorded under the name Nightlands, his debut solo album, “Forget the Mantra,” places these somnolent rants at the heart of his compositions.

Hartley is one of the busiest musicians in Philly’s indie-land, playing bass and guitar in BC Camplight, The War On Drugs and Buried Beds. But those projects already have songwriters in place, and Hartley was looking for an outlet for his own compositions.

Picked up by The War On Drugs’ label, Secretly Canadian, “Mantra” is designed with the ebbs and flows of the sleep cycle in mind. “I wanted it to have an arch,” he says. “There’s some distinct songs in the beginning, but then it gets dreamier and dreamier —like a dream, when you go into that long wave of sleep, and then you wake up at the end of the eight-hour cycle with sudden clarity.”

 
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