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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum

In Glorious Times

Review by Gary Hill

I've heard about this band a lot. Until now I'd never heard them. What a challenge as a reviewer it is to write about this music. I've never heard a mix of sounds quite like this. These guys are without question one of the most experimental acts I've ever had the opportunity to check out. Angular segments merge with pounding dissonant metal. RIO and King Crimson sounds combine with vocals and arrangements more in line with Cradle of Filth. This one will not be an easy sell to prog purists, but if you like the more adventurous music from old King Crimson and are open to new combinations and new sounds, I can guarantee you've never heard anything quite like this. Give it a try.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Companions
Starting in ambient ways, this rises gradually from there. The first vocals enter over something that teeters between balladic and ambient. The music fills out as the singing continues and the arrangement builds slowly. This sound is weird, combining dissonance and unusual instruments in an motif that's just slightly off of mainstream in many ways. Comparisons to King Crimson could be warranted, but there is also a link to movie soundtrack sounds and dark ambient music. At about the three and a half minute mark of this epic (over ten minutes) hints of more melody show up. These sounds eventually rise up to create a more rocking structure that carries on with a noisy, rather psychedelic sound as the weirdness continues. This is noisy, but also intriguing. It drops back for a time before a pounding version of it returns. Guitar lines weave just outside the realm of the main song structure in great fashion and this is rocking, but also textural. It's dark and powerful. More and more layers are added as this plods onward. It becomes quite lush and powerful. Around the seven minute mark this explodes into noisy fury with Eastern tones and other elements colliding in a chaotic, yet captivating combination of sounds. It gets more and more convoluted over the next minute, then drops back to more textural moods to move on. The next vocals come over this backdrop as another ballad-like mode takes over. This motif (with sound bites added) ends the track after a short time.
Helpless Corpses Enactment
This pounds in with a dark mode that has as much in common with such bands as Cradle of Filth as it does with more prog outfits. They force this out into a frantic, dark metal jam from there. The free-form concept shares something with RIO and King Crimson while the overall effect is extreme metal. A winding, rising piece of noise that calls to mind The Dead Boys takes over for a time. Then it shifts out into one of the more melodic jams of the track. More dark metal ensues from there. It's obvious that prog purists will hate this, but for the rest of us it's incredibly intriguing with odd segments emerging from all directions in an orgy of sound that's hard to keep track of or pin down. This is definitely not for everyone, but well worth giving a shot. It is definitely one of the most unique melanges of sound I've come across. This turns very epic metal in its later segments.
Puppet Show
In a total change of pace, dissonant piano merges with other elements in a noisy sort of RIO meets early King Crimson approach. Asian textures show up over the top of this mix. Sounds that feel like the soundtrack to some old science fiction or horror film also skim the surface here and there. As the vocals enter it is with a heavy (but not metallic) pounding and they are sung in a manner that calls to mind the soundtrack to the original Omen. After this, the band launch out into a jam that resembles Birdsongs of the Mesozoic or Djam Karet quite a bit. This then drops back to a reprise of the opening musical themes and it feels like we've hit “repeat” as they move back through similar zones – with new variations on the themes. They work in a whole series of odd changes and textures in a seemingly ever changing soundscape. This cut feels very evil.
Formicary
A weird sound loop begins things here. Then a pounding piece of strangeness takes it. They launch out from there in an off-kilter jam that really feels a lot like a cross between King Crimson and Birdsongs. This is one of the most accessible songs on the disc and includes some Beatles-like vocals over a free form RIO backdrop. In many ways this one of the most accessible tracks on show. In some ways it's among the most consistent, too – feeling a lot like King Crimson throughout its duration. I'd have to list this as one of my favorites here. It's one that is easiest to latch onto.
Angel of Repose
With noisy sounds serving as the backdrop, gentle female vocals weave a trail across the top. Again, I'm inclined to think of early KC. This track runs through several changes, but remains overall unchanged until around the two minute mark. Then a transitory segment gives way to some definite Red-era KC tinged stuff. Once again, I had have to point to Fripp and company as the primary reference here, but there are Celtic textures emerging at times – and plenty of other sounds. This is another that is more accessible than some of the other material. It's also another favorite of mine. This becomes extremely powerful in its later incarnations with waves of musical fury and exceptionally emotional vocals merging for great effect.
Ossuary
A bayou type sound (with traditional instruments) begins this rather tentatively. With traditional instrumentation still in place they work this out into more KC-like jams after a time. This is bouncy and powerful and perhaps calls to mind Camper Van Beethoven as much as King Crimson. You might hear quite a big chunk of Birdsongs on this ever changing musical motif. Still, it also includes some death/goth metal vocals.
The Salt Crown
Starting in dark ambiance, this grows very slowly. The vocals come over the top of this backdrop as the “music” plods along. Eventually it shifts out into a more melodic jam that is still quite dark. The King Crimson elements emerge after a time, still very Red-era in tone. Later it screams out in a marriage of those KC sounds with death metal. This turns into quite the brutal pounding, but yet they still manage to put melodic elements into the mix. They drop it back later to more sedate tones as they move onward. A weird section where the music feels like chords thrown in at random points in time – almost stuttering enters with a weird falsetto singing over the top. They build it up in more melodic ways from there. Sound effects and ambient textures take it to finally end it.
The Only Dance
Although rather dissonant, the gentle modes that begin this are pretty. They rise up with another mix that could be compared to Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. It's about a minute and a half in before they rise up in a pounding mass of chaos (but not metallic) for the first vocals. They drop it back down for the next vocals and then rise up with layers of vocals and instruments creating a motif that is unsettling, yet powerful and still retains some beauty. This moves out into a soaring movement. A crescendo gives way to a reprise of the opening sounds to take the track out with a nice bookend approach.
The Greenless Wreath
Gentle sounds also lead this one off. At about a minute in, the cut threatens to rise way upward. Instead it moves to more textural, but pretty sounds as it carries forward for the vocals. This has almost a Genesis-approach, but still off-kilter and a bit twisted in texture. They create some of the prettiest, but still dark textures of the disc as they turn this towards more lush terrain. It reaches a powerful crescendo, but yet continues to rise. They drop it back a little for a while, then move out into another definite King Crimson like jam, but with more world elements and classical instrumentation dancing around the outside. This gives way after a while to more pretty ballad-like structures to take it to its conclusion. This is definitely my favorite track on the CD.
The Widening Eye
After more soundbites a mellow mode that seems to blend Genesis with King Crimson takes the composition. As this rises upward more RIO-like modes take over. They bring in more Red-era Crimson sounds as they continue wandering through their creation. This instrumental turns more metallic, but still in a Crimsonian way. This is a dynamic and potent piece that is another highlight. It seems to end in mid-thought.
The Putrid Refrain
This is essentially a reprise of the closing segment of the last piece. It is repeated and gradually pulled down to ambient sounds. Gentle textures with spoken sound bites make up the later half or more of this short (just under three minutes) piece. A period of silence is included in that time frame and then followed by a crazed phone message.
 
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