I was pretty surprised when I heard that The End Records had signed the bizarre musical collective known as SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM. Despite The End's penchant for Progressive and Avantgarde acts, I would have much sooner expected SLEEPYTIME to sign to Mike Patton's Ipecac Recordings or perhaps even John Zorn's Tzadik label. Those two labels are much more in line with SLEEPYTIME's musical agenda, but I guess that with The End's new direction - what with bands like ESTRADASPHERE, GIANT SQUID and STOLEN BABIES - that statement might have become obsolete.
"The Grand Opening And Closing" was SLEEPYTIME's full-length debut, re-released on The End as preparation for their upcoming album. This is very hard to describe - lots of twisted riffs, jagged bass and maniacal vocals thrown into songs structures that don't really have much structure to them at all. There are strange instruments everywhere - bells, trash can lids and various found sounds. The music can get very heavy at times, but it is never something I would describe as Metal. Instead, this is like floating in and out of a nightmare. If you need something to latch on to, maybe I could describe this as a less carnival-esque and less jazzy MR. BUNGLE with the addition of a female vocalist, playing a lot of songs that sound like "Everyone I Went To High School With Is Dead" and "The Bends". Maybe.
Tracks like "Powerless", "Sleep Is Wrong" and "1997" provide the teeth-shattering strength of the album and are probably two of the strongest tracks on here. Tracks like the album's original closer "Sunflower" and bonus track on this edition "Flinch", on the other hand, take a more minimalist and almost silent approach, making for a very difficult listen on the second half of the extended album. Of course, "difficult listens" are what SLEEPYTIME had in mind, I'm sure, so I guess that fact counts in their favor.
"The Grand Opening And Closing" is a very ambitious album from a quite strange ensemble. I recommend this to fans of the work of Mike Patton, John Zorn, or some of the more recent signee's to The End Records, particularly ESTRADASPHERE. Just be warned - this will take several listens to wrap your head around.
(Online November 9, 2006)