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Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
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SGM fall somewhere between the clinical, super heavy and rhythmically confrontational metal of Meshuggah, the eclecticism of Mr. Bungle, and the willfully complex and initially difficult to appreciate stylings of avant prog like Thinking Plague. Far from being a mixture of the above though, SGM moulds this (pretty diverse) set of influences into a mammoth display of instrumental prowess, schizophrenic sampling and claustrophobic production, obscure and baffling lyrics and even a little techno half song which degenerates into a Meshuggah style pounding guitar fest. I think the bands finest achievement then, flying in the face of such carefree experimentation (as an album, this is probably the epitome of anti commercialism) is that it does craft memorable songs, and even produces moments of, albeit chilly and never fully comfortable, beauty.
For instance, the first track, 'Hymn To The Morning Star', adapts the words from a TV theme, I believe, into a chilling ballad of sorts. The initial verses are delivered with a very Mike Patton esque croon, and when the chorus eventually kicks in, female vocals back up the male to very creepy effect. The song acts as an introduction to the second track, which sees the band let rip in full on metal mode.Read more ›
1. Story -- It has the great and complex depth of its story line of a Wagner, Mahler or Richard Strauss.
2. Dynamics -- The push and pull of the music and the story-teller can only be compared to the great Puccini.
3. Technical skill -- The virtuosity of the musicians can be compared to a great string quarter such as the Juilliard or Italian or to a witch docktor such as Paganini.
4. Philosophical -- Primitivism and futurism combined in one great elegant rant. Think Sex Pistols who were educated and were upset about the nature of reality -- not just the Queen of England and the class system.
5. Impact -- The impact of the music is liberating and requires clear and reflection to be even partially digested.
6. Sources -- They draw from heavy metal, Bartok, Berg, carnival music, Weil, etc. etc. etc.
You got it -- this is a powerhouse. I believe they are mostly classically trained. The violinist could be a reincarnation of Paganini himself.
I saw them live in Portland and they made a lasting impression of real high art -- intense beyond belief -- like watching Wagner's Ring sped up to a one hour sitting. If your mother and father like modern classical atonal music -- take them to a live show -- you will need a good set of earplugs, good scotch, and a shower after the show.
Of the many excellent avant rock groups making music in the Bay area, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is the most excellent. Their first release, Grand Opening and Closing, was a virtually unknown masterpiece and, in my humble opinion, a milestone in the history of rock music. OF Natural History improves on their debut and earns SGM the exalted honor of My Favorite Band.
I am reluctant to make comparisons to describe this music. There are familiar aspects, but I can't help but feel that comparisons will only confuse. Deprived of reference, I am left with mere adjectives and we all know how inadequate these can be when trying to describe music.
I will say that this is serious music written and played by serious musicians. All aspects, harmony, rhythm, melody, and, most strikingly, timbre, are exciting and captivating. Absorbing the textures of SGM's aural palate is like tasting exotic cuisine after a lifetime of mush. I'm terrible at similes. The unconventional percussion, the vocal styling, the timbres of the guitars, along with Carla Kihlstedt's (Vocals, Violin) huge bag of virtuosic, ingenious tricks conspire to create music that is vibrant with aural color and makes me breathe faster and get goosebumps.
This is next level stuff.
The libretto is dark and cerebral. It centers around the idea of an inverse evolution that works alongside the "progressive" one. As humanity evolves, it also devolves by emulating the characteristics of lower and lower life forms until it finally comes to its present state of insect-like efficiency. Interesting stuff.
Then I moved up to Meshuggah, which was quite a leap. I thought, "Wow, this is intense."
And then I have come to this. This might already be some sort of cliche, but if you can picture the way the apocalypse might sound, you're still not hitting this album. Seriously, I listened to "Freedom Club", went along with the soft part with the vibe-like instruments playing, and then the math professor dream, and WHAM!!!
I'm surprised I came out alive. Mind you, these were large speakers, and I didn't expect anything that infernal to come out. Think Meshuggah with more instruments, a more demanding singer, and an overall greater burden for a listener to bear. I was in shock for about ten minutes. Well, not really, but this song in particular just made me flip.
Even before that magnum opus, there's the opening song, which has to be some sort of tongue-in-cheek stab at evangelical music, or something. I was confused, but then the lyrics to the female-male sung part clued me in. "The greatest lie ever told" and a song about "the infant God" usually don't go together. But, surely enough, they do here. Great background harmonies, by the way.
"Phthisis" is another thing completely. The female vocals are absolutely amazing, in that they convey tons of emotion. One of the things I noticed about this album is that the lyrics are genius, something that doesn't stop on any one song. But the vocals on this song always make shivers go up my spine. They're not scary, they're just aurally arresting.
Oh, and don't let me forget "Babydoctor", which could be even more intense than "Freedom Club" plus all the other songs.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I really can't describe this group because they are so unique. Dark, intense and with great musicianship. Great bottom/bass. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Thomas C. Lent
The most amazing prog album! Just couldn't believe it when I first heard it. Just incredible. The instrumentation, the music, the scope and breadth of the pieces...Simply amazing.Published 3 months ago by Steve S.
I've seen a few groups over the years that have paved the way into experimental or Avant Garde genre music (the first that comes to mind is "Art of Noise") but none so much as... Read morePublished on April 29, 2012 by The Marquis de Ceas'd
If you are even looking here, or on the fence, quit wasting your time and buy this CD.Published on June 16, 2010 by David Oehler
More volatile and indulgent than their sharply perverse debut, ONH still has enough fractured dazzle to spellbind the morbidly progressive set, but exemplifies the over-stretch... Read morePublished on January 14, 2010 by IRate
Sleepytime's music is so unusual and so idiosyncratic that it would be forgivable to think that this music was made in some uncharted land by a civilization that time has long... Read morePublished on May 5, 2009 by Nick
Well this is certainly an experimental band, and unfortunately some of the experiments went bad. But that doesn't mean there aren't successes on here too. Read morePublished on August 4, 2008 by music doctor
OK so the production values & musicianship are great - but this is like if Trey Parker wrote a rock opera without any jokes in it and decided to get the fat shouty one from... Read morePublished on June 18, 2006 by speaking pony
its almost like satan just f**ked an elephant riding a clown in a carnival while playing ping pong with a midget who is also the bearded woman and balding while lighting a pilot... Read morePublished on April 24, 2006 by ALocustLinedSymphony