Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is the aftermath of Idiot Flesh's demise in 1998. Founding members of Idiot Flesh (Nils Frykdahl and Dan Rathbun) started Sleepytime Gorilla Museum less than a year later. In 2001, they released their debut album, "Grand Opening and Closing". According to the official websites description, the album is "a collection of boisterous laments for the failure of the millennial apocalypse." That statement isn't very far from the truth, this is the music I'd want to hear during an apocalyptic post-war world, or during nuclear fallout.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's music seems random and unorganized at first listen, but they do work within a set of boundaries with a set number of tricks. That's not to say they ever repeat themselves or overstay their welcome, more like they have a distinct sound and that sound will often find its way into whatever style they happen to be playing. Mr. Bungle will often be conjured up as inspiration to Sleepytime's arcane methods, but more appropriate comparisons are The Residents, Swans and King Crimson (Idiot Flesh even covered a Residents song) They even go as far as to perform live with costumes (anonymity), puppet shows, and pseudo-scientific scholarly presentations, which is truly lifted from the Residents live philosophy.
The album's best moments aren't in one fleeting riff, or one memorable line. It happens within the entire song, because Nils composes songs like he would a piece of classical music, giving mood and presentation the utmost importance. In Ambugaton, it builds like a crescendo, but also crashes down only to be built back up again until it ends on a high note. Think of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The only differences are it builds more than once, and it doesn't take 22 minutes for it to happen. Or if slow builders are your bag, the song "Sleepytime (Spirit is a Bone)" would suit you well.
Nils' talent for composing also happens in "Powerless", which is in my opinion, easily the best song on the entire album. And that's really saying a lot, because every song has something different to offer. It's a slow builder, but the nine minute length can afford it. After the first minute or two of jingling, it slowly launches into a cataclysmic hell. The rest of the song, anything goes. When you least expect it, they do the unthinkable. They somehow incorporate a Funkadelic inspired bass line into everything. Just when you can't handle any more, the song winds down and ended just how it began. Quietly.
Other songs are much more linear than "Powerless". For instance, "The Stain" owes a great debt to the song "Providence" by King Crimson. The entire midsection is comprised of Fripp-esque noodling. As for the rest of the song, it's actually a pretty basic riff that reminds me of the chorus of "Bullet in the Head" by Rage Against the Machine. The truly special thing about this song is the duet of Nils and Carla. Their style of harmonizing together is so unconventional, it could be described as anti harmonizing, or harmonizing against harmonizing. Nils will simply recite the lines in a retracted sort of tone, while Carla breathy voice stings the ears. Together, the voices are just as good as any of their instruments can do, but you can still hear the separated voices tower above the music. It is a Sleepytime Gorilla Museum trademark, and you can find it in other songs, primarily in all of "Ablutions".
In conclusion, I would recommend this to enthusiastic avant-garde fans, people who like anything progressive, or just anyone who is sick of the same old crap and need a kick in the face with something fresh. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum will do more for your musical health than a glass of orange juice in the morning. All bad analogies aside, listen to this album.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is:
* Matthias Bossi - drums, glockenspiel, xylophone, vocals
* Nils Frykdahl - guitars, flutes, vocals
* Carla Kihlstedt - violins, percussion guitar, autoharp, organ, vocals
* Michael Mellender - percussion, assorted melodic instruments,vocals
* Dan Rathbun - bass, log, trombone, lute, vocals