Hyped and over-hyped by all the right critics, hailed as the best unknown band in New York by The Village Voice, the Big Sleep comes out of a tiny apartment in Brooklyn to the wide world of indie buzz. Being compared to My Bloody Valentine is a lofty comparison, and a band could fall flat on its face, cut to shreds by the backlash coming from critics everywhere. The only thing that can save a band in this situation is if the music is truly and utterly as great as everyone says it is.
To that end, the Big Sleep almost succeed. They sound like a band that’s onto something big, something exciting, and are working on developing its potential. The band hits the listener with a wall of sound, their songs propelling forward to their own rhythm and momentum, creating rushes of pure excitement. The My Bloody Valentine comparisons fall apart because the Big Sleep’s music, while dabbling in the same guitar-instrumental genre, is not shoe-gazing. Rather, for a band that names itself “The Big Sleep”, their sound is lively and jolting, an alarm clock to the senses.
The vocals are muted on this album. Sonya Balchandani, on “Murder”, methodically drones on, acting almost as a bass section. Words on this album are muted, the sound is all that matters. The bass line on “You Can’t Touch the Untouchable” is as dangerous sounding as any bass will get, and drives the song forward in its silky, smooth march. The drumming on “Murder” is as intense and visceral as the title of the song would suggest. But it is the guitars that drive the album. On “Menemy”, they shimmer and vibe, creating a mood of wanting on desolation, while on “Shima” they bounce and pulse in head-nodding fashion. “Son of the Tiger” is another highlight. Balchandani’s bass meshes perfectly with the menacing guitars to create a sense of danger that fits a band with a name that is an homage to Raymond Chandler.
The album does contain its weaker moments, and the middle portion of the album drags. However, those are few and far between in comparison to the highlights. This includes the awesome closer “New Strings”, seven minutes of prog-rock heaven, building slowly and surely until it gets so powerful that the listener forgets to breathe, and then breaking down upon itself into fuzz and feedback, like the song can’t handle its own power. The song’s liveliness, menace and musical artistry is evidence of the Big Sleep’s potential as a band. There is something great afoot here, and all the words of hype written can’t mask that.