The Big Sleep - Nature Experiments
Brooklyn noisemakers The Big Sleep release their third album – one that has already gained a heady steam of momentum in the States and has seen the band booked for some impressive shows in Europe. Despite their silent-sounding name, Danny Baria and Sonya Balchandani have specialised in crafting a hurling big sound throughout their career. Nature Experiments is released on French Kiss Records and after taking a break from relentless touring, sees them take a more collaborative approach to their songwriting. What effect will this have on this oh-so finely-honed sound?
The conveniently-titled '#1' formidably opens the album sounding a bit like Blur when they pretended to be Pavement. Punishing, intricate and complex guitar riffs help it explode into life as Danny shouts: "We've got to try and work it out!." A loud and brash start to the album which is followed by another fantastically-titled song in 'Ace'. This time Sonya takes the lead on vocals and the grungey dancefloor feel never gets lost amidst a quell of seductive vocals, hooks and noise. The song ends with a huge, perhaps unexpected celebratory feel. 'Valentine' is the first song on the album to delve into electronics and comes complete with a gothic 80s vibe, somewhere between Depeche Mode and The Cure, before the guitar comes in and it morphs into frenetic, distorted indie pop a la Cloud Nothings. With the interesting interplay between the echoing vocals, the brazen pop of this song would certainly fit with their recent tour buddies Fang Island!
With a shoegaze influence evident throughout , the album also has echoes of The Joy Formidable or Hell Is For Heroes – especially on the more chest-pumping anthemic pieces like 'Ladders' and 'Meet Your Maker', the latter complemented with the vocals: "Come on kid, meet your maker" and "Go on, back where you belong." Much of the album sits tantalisingly between delicate melodies and cruching noise, and the band use many synth pads and effects to help create their distinctive sound. A particularly synth-heavy number is 'Red Carpet', at least in its intro before guitars come in and and turn it into a damn fine piece of noisy pop. It is a song that will get people dancing – even if it's just an awkward shuffle. In contrast to this is the opening of 'Four Wishes', which sounds like Jimmy Page has wrestled a guitar off Danny and joined the band for half a song. After this classic, crunching start the song starts to take a slower turn and the band truly excel when they rein themselves in. The closer of the album, '1001', is a delicate and haunting piece that's build-up threatens to turn into a beast of a post-rock song, but never quite does – and is all the better for it. Genuinely captivating until the final, calming note, it is a great and unexpected way to finish what is a dynamic record.
There may be more vocals on this album than previous releases, but the band still rely heavily on a healthy dose of experimental instrumentation and arrangements. On the whole, you'd say these 'Nature Experiments' are a success, and despite being called The Big Sleep, all signs are pointing towards this lot waking up to a whole new level of success.