“Much of this music was written collectively, with song ideas arising out of group improvisations and subject to merciless revision by all Museum members.”
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Dan Rathbun, Polymorph Recording, Oakland, CA. 1999-2001. Produced by Dan Rathbun and the MUSEUM. Flinch & More Time recorded 2006, Ibid. Released on The End Records, 2001. Reprint and expansion, 2006.
The unlikely-sounding Sleepytime Gorillia Museum is another band that I’d never heard of, let alone heard. But the more I listened to them, and the more I found out about them, the more I liked.
Formed in 1999 in California, from members of Idiot Flesh and Charming Hostess, they took their name from a “museum of the future” which was owned and operated by a group of artists who called themselves the Sleepytime Gorilla Press. Their first performance, according to the history page on their website, was to “a single banana slug (Ariolimax dolichophallus). The following night’s performance was their first to a human audience.” What’s not to like?
When I listened to the album for the first time last week my immediate response was: at last! Something different and interesting. This isn’t a particularly easy record to listen to. It’s not something to put on in the background to quietly set the mood. Unless, of course, the mood you are looking for is creepy mediaeval dungeon filled with mythical and schizophrenic creatures of doom and despair.
The music sounds to me like the complete works of Frank Zappa, Hedningarna, Faith No More, Mike Patton, Tomahawk, Voivod, Stravinsky, and Penderecki have been dropped into a wood-chipper and fashioned into something strange and incredible. It is both delicate and heavy; it is in parts beautiful and ugly; there is harmony and dischord; there is hope and despair. I love it.
The album opens very quietly, a little percussion here, a few guitar hammer-ons there, and a guttural mumbling that wouldn’t be out of place on a Tomahawk track. This segues into a Scandinavian-esque, Hedningarna-like riff which takes a left turn into an industrial pounding jack-hammer kind of vibe with growling, plodding vocals. Then suddenly quiet. Close-harmony group vocal. Riff reprise… this is crazy stuff. It demands your attention.
My favourite track of this album is track two, “Ambugaton” which also opens subtly with a plinky, atonic arpeggio that slowly, slowly grows over the next three minutes into a heavy riff that must be so fun to play. Again, this has elements of Faith No More and Tomahawk, which is probably why I like it so much.
“1997 (tonight we’re going to party like it’s…)” runs a close second for me for best song of the album. It certainly has more lyrics, which isn’t hard as “Ambugaton” has only one: “Ambugaton!”
This is a fabulous, experimental album with its feet in many genres. I loved listening to it the first time through. Like I said, I found it interesting and exciting. I’ve loved it more and more as I’ve listened to it again and again.
I’m certain that I’m not finished with it yet. I fully expect it to grow on me more and more. And now I want to hear their other work too. Maybe I could get a couple of banana slugs in and invite them over for a house concert.
Review score: 95%