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Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Of Natural History CD (album) cover

OF NATURAL HISTORY

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.12 | 195 ratings

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Figglesnout
4 stars Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Of Natural History

This is one is light-years above the predecessor. Of Natural History is actually near perfect, in terms of what this band can pull off. It is only hindered by the few throwaway tracks contained within it. If you know nothing of this band, here's a short refresher course: they are a very unique avant-garde band that draws comparisons only with label-mates Unexpect or pseudo-former band Idiot Flesh. Their music is spastic, yet gradual, and usually rather quirky (as is the nature of much avant-garde music). Their first album, Grand Opening and Closing, was unbalanced and did little to achieve its full potential, and this is their second, and best album thus far.

Now, the music:

The opening track Hymn to the Morning Star is a slow moving one--immediately hard to get into, mostly thanks to the vocals--which take some getting used to. The avant influence is much more immediately present on this album than on their first. The song climbs, with choirs, odd and bass-heavy middle sections, and melodramatic vocals, and ends with what is essentially the intro to track two.

The Donkey Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Book is one hell of a track. It moves psychedelically, winding in and out of it's heavy and Celtic-like moments--full of odd, speculative timing--and then into a neat little plucked-string/vocal call-response section. It is, without a doubt, the first of many highlights on this album. This one's a thriller--the proper "opening" to the album, and gives a good taste of what this band can pull off.

Phthisis features the wonderful vocals of Carla--a nice change and a great track, built off an interesting sort of vocal-to-instrument call and response session.

Bring Back the Apocalypse is a bit underwhelming to me...sounding rather forced during most of it, at least lyrically. The music is fine, but is nothing truly spectacular. This track is heavily percussion/background-noise built, and the intention muddling gives it a unique, tense feel, which--incidentally--is great, considering the next track, which it leads into.

FC: The Freedom Club is a long, glorious, mysterious ride through this band's talent, including dual male/female vocals, mysterious chord structures, nice escalations and wind-downs, and nifty instrumentation all the while...It is heavy-laden with an almost drone-inducing atmosphere, and is one of the few pieces I've heard that really sounds "brought to life". For me, this is quite possibly the standout track on the album.

Gunday's Child is a nice track that begins with a gentle guitar riff and soft effects with odd melodies behind it. The whole song builds off of this gentle nature--and ends up sounding a bit like Satan's Toy Factory might sound...in a very amusing, fun, and interesting--quirky--way. This one stands out, once again, because of the interesting choice for Carla on lead vocals, which is always a pleasure.

The 17 Year Cicada is an odd filler, instrumental track with percussive, tribal rhythms and many odd effects closing it out. By far the weakest track on the album, barring the final, "hidden" track. The Creature is a another fun, standout, haunting track. I like this one a lot. It is extremely effective, once again, in the atmosphere department, and features the vocals of Dan Rathbun (who will be known for his producing this band, building their many "original" instruments, as well as for playing bass). Gentle, disturbing, and brilliantly played, this one stands out.

What Shall He Do Without Us is a wonderful little intermediary track that is short, but brilliantly written, and again features the voice of Carla--something that's more a motif on this album than the first. The track has a neat little climax with fast riffs and demonic fun spread all around, then lets off with some silly speech near the end. Babydoctor is a long one, yet a great one--as can be told from the start. This one--much like "FC: The Freedom Club" seems to breathe itself to life, like an uncanny machine stuttering on fuel that suddenly becomes fully invigorated. It is a suite of tension, atmosphere, and haunting mobility, and serves as a very interesting choice for the climax-track of the album.

The Cockroach is a nice, ironic closer to the album, with ironic lyrics and melodramatic vocals attached. Very nicely done, and what I consider to be the proper "ending" of the album. Hidden Track, which, incidentally, is not so hidden, is nothing but ambiance and conversation, and neither adds nor detracts from the album as a whole. Still, it will seem extremely useless unless you're listening through headphones and following the concept--which I won't spoil here.

Overall, this is a superb effort from Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and, while not without a few weaker moments, it is effectively delivered and works very well as a consistent whole. While not perfect, I'd easily rate it something near 8.8/10 or so, which doesn't quite scratch 5 stars on this scale, so I'll settle for 4 stars instead.

Figglesnout | 4/5 |

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