Sleep – The Clarity
Released by: Southern Lord Records
Released on: February 10th, 2017. Purchase From Amazon
Sleep’s The Clarity, the band’s first new recording since 1998, was originally released digitally in 2014 by Adult Swim as part of their ‘Singles Program’ (and then on vinyl in a very limited form available only at the few reunion shows they did and the band’s website). Well, there are those of us who prefer physical media and always were, so yeah, enter Southern Lord who have pressed the track to vinyl and on February 10th will be releasing it through regular distribution channels for the first time on 180-gram 12” vinyl. The B-side will feature an etching of the cover art by David V. D’Andrea (Samaritan Press) “and will be housed in an ultra-heavyweight picture disc-style sleeve, silkscreened with the iconic Sleep logo” so don’t try and play it on your turntable.
Recorded by Neurosis’ Noah Landis (which makes sense given who is playing drums for Sleep now) and mastered by John Golden, this ten minute track starts off with a weird sort of minimalist noise laying down a rhythmic beat before Al Cisneros’s vocals kick in at the same time the drum, guitar and bass get thick, heavy and smoky-fine. It’s repetitive, almost drony in spots, but that stoner rock ethos is there, creeping up your back and sucking at your brain through the rear of your skull. A strange guitar riff courtesy of Matt Pike that comes from some sort of other planet gives the track a psychedelic tinge about two and a half minutes in, before we’re treated to an ethereal, odd instrumental break that quickly gives way to more of Pike’s off kilter vocals and that same repetitive riff that has anchored The Clarity since the opening of the track. Just before the six minute mark we get a suitably meandering guitar solo that takes us through a series of highs and lows before planting our collective ass back in the middle of that monster riff. Cisneros’s bass work here is thick, sticky, pungent and almost surreal while Jason Roeder keeps time behind the kit in a big way, giving the track a palpable backbeat off of which Pike’s guitars pull the listener in, forcing on them a healthy dose of second hand smoke.
Managing to simultaneously sound stoned out of their mind and completely tight and on top of things, The Clarity would seem to have been long overdue. Here the band sounds like a well-oiled machine, completely in tune with what their ‘sound’ should encapsulate but still willing to push things into bizarre and unexpected territory. Just when it seemed like a lot of stoner rock was getting boring and that the scene was comprised of bands just going through the motions, along come Sleep to show you how to do it right. Two thumbs way up.