SLEEP at THE GOTHIC THEATRE | 1/3/14 Cannabis is legalized here in the same week Sleep comes back to Colorado to play a show. Coincidence? Whatever the case, this show surpassed the last time the outfit played at the Gothic in September 2010. Something just seemed more coherent and focused this time around; the glacier of thundering sound was inexorable and irresistible as it rumbled over an invisible landscape, grinding it down with a dynamic fluidity often imitated but rarely, if ever, equaled in the world of heavy rock.
Drawing largely from its two best albums, Sleep's Holy Mountain and Dopesmoker, Sleep put together two smoldering hours of music. From seeing one of the loudest bands playing quiet pieces -- with Al Cisneros and Matt Pike facing their amps, not to generate feedback so much as having more control over those delicate moments -- to seeing the way the band sketched outlines of songs and then breathed life into them with lingering rhythms, hanging chords and rippling low end, the set felt as cinematic as it was sonically imposing.
"Dragonaut" had a smoother quality than the studio recording, as did "Aquarian." After the band played "Holy Mountain," somebody in the crowd yelled out a request for the same tune, and Cisneros simply said, "We just played that." (Perhaps the big haze that hovered in the room explained the redundant request.) At the end, Sleep treated us to an extended take of "From Beyond" and slipped in some lyrics about Voyager exploring other planets. But for all of the words can about the future and outer space, the music certainly seemed to come from deep down inner space.
Helen Money, who opened the show earlier in the night, should be commended for the guts it takes to warm up for a band like Sleep with just herself and an electric cello. With her instrument fed into a looping pedal and accompanied by some electronic drum tracks, Money sounded like something SWANS might have done for The Seer.
Money's ability to generate the heaviest, distorted cello line while also releasing fluttering bird sounds and other organic-sounding textures was impressive. She was as heavy as anything that followed while also generating some of the most musically beautiful moments of the night. She also seemed to win over a good number of people in the crowd with her power and panache. Between bowing the cello, plucking the strings and striking them as though wrestling with a large electric bass, Money made the music of giants.
Personal Bias: I've been a fan of Sleep's colossal sound sculpting for over a decade. Random Detail: Ran into Scott Schulman of Skully Mammoth, Mike Serviolo of IZ (and formerly of Jux County), Marie Litton of Lil Thunder, Brian Marcus of Tjutjuna and Jeff Suthers and Shannon Stein formerly of Bright Channel at the show. By the Way: The pillowcases were sold out, but the T-shirts were reasonably priced at $20.
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