SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM — Of The Last Human Being

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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM - Of The Last Human Being cover
5.00 | 2 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2024

Tracklist

1. Salamander in Two Worlds (6:31)
2. Fanfare for the Last Human Being (1:31)
3. El Evil (5:45)
4. Bells for Kith and Kin (1:26)
5. Silverfish (7:17)
6. S.P.Q.R. (4:05
7. We Must Know More (3:36)
8. The Gift (6:11)
9. Hush, Hush (7:45)
10. Save It! (2:59)
11. Burn into Light (5:25)
12. Old Grey Heron (7:24)
13. Rose-Colored Song (5:46)

Total Time 65:41

Line-up/Musicians

- Nils Frykdahl / guitar, vocals
- Carla Kihlstedt / violin, percussion guitar, bass harmonica, vocals
- Michael Mellender / guitar, xylophone, trumpet, percussion, vocals
- Dan Rathbun / bass, dulcimer, vocals
- Matthias Bossi / drums, glockenspiel, xylophone, piano, backing vocals

About this release

Of the Last Human Being [p]
2024 CD
Of the Last Human Being Digital file, Streaming
2024 Lossless Digital
Of the Last Human Being Colored Vinyl, Limited Edition
2024 Vinyl LP

Thanks to silly puppy for the addition

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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM OF THE LAST HUMAN BEING reviews

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Warthur
Emerging from a long hiatus, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum make a triumphant comeback. With an orchestra backing them, absolutely pristine production, and themes as dark and foreboding as any they offered up on their original run of three albums, this is a purified and intensified take on their distinctive musical approach, a terrifying metal-in-opposition meditation on human extinction and other weighty topics which runs the full emotional gamut from ethereal beauty to apocalyptic terror.

Not only do the band sound like they've not missed a beat - and in fact, they never did with many of the members having continued to work with each other in Free Salamander Exhibit, perhaps nodded to in the opening track here. Moreover, they began working on much of this material in 2010-2011 (and SQPR, a This Heat cover, hails from as far back as 2004) and have been gently working on it ever since, meaning this album has been brewed, distilled, and refined over the span of a decade. The end result might be the best expression they've ever offered of their creative vision, a keystone which ties their body of work together and which in retrospect it feels like their earlier albums were building towards all along. With many of the band members equally adept at rock and classical instruments, and Nils Frykdahl giving Mike Patton a run for his money in terms of vocal acrobatics, the Museum deploys its full bag of tricks here expertly, everything used purposefully and thoughtfully to best effect.

For a group which started out resembling an avant-prog take on Mr. Bungle, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum have only forged ahead into yet stanger territory; here they make Mr. Bungle's most alienating moments seem outright smooth and approachable by comparison, but never become dryly technical, maintaining an impressive command of atmosphere and emotion for the whole 66 minute running time.
siLLy puPPy
Of all the artists to rise from the dead like Lazarus of Bethany in the calendar year 2024, the Oakland based freak show known as SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM was not exactly on my radar. After all, these curators of one of the most surreal Dadaist performance art niches in the entire world of experimental rock and avant-garde metal had a full life with it’s “Grand Opening And Closing” ceremonies in 2001 followed by its most creative and insanely disturbing pinnacle with its following “Of Natural History.” With its third installment “In Glorious Times” the band shifted gears a bit with seemingly nothing left to prove and then closed up shop and presumably down for the count. While rumors persisted it seemed that the creation of the band Free Salamander Exit formed shortly after with album emerging in 2016 announced that the SGM was as history as the fire ravaged fictitious museum of its namesake. But this is SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM and the only thing that can safely be expected is indeed the unexpected.

Seventeen years is a long time for such a creatively insane band to drop off the scene entirely and suddenly reemerge but that is exactly what has occurred in the earliest moments of 2024 when the majestic madness of the SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM has announced its reopening with an invitation to experience its latest exhibit - OF THE LAST HUMAN BEING. Yes, it’s all back and so too are the main curators and partners in crime which has included the mischievous gypsy geniuses Nils Frykdahl, Dan Rathbun, Carla Kihlstedt, Michael Mellender and Matthias Bossi and of course they resurrect their entire arsenal of sound making devices for your listening pleasure. The “Rock Against Rock” troupe has reactivated all the musical mojo that made the first run so magical and once investigated a bit further, it turns out that SGM actually began to write for a fourth album as soon as the third one was complete therefore much of the material presented on OF THE LAST HUMAN BEING actually feels like a natural continuation of where the band left off in 2011. But of course it wouldn’t be SGM without throwing a few curveballs and for that we will always love them.

Perhaps one of the most anticipated returns to the world of avant-prog metal, the new album was made possible by fans crowdfunding the financial creation of it. Perhaps all of those who missed their favorite musical mystics needed to relish in the unsavory thematic events that emerge from the age of the Anthropocene Extinction just needed their fix once again. Well look no further. The band sent out some teaser’s with early video releases for the tracks “Burn Into Light” and “Hush Hush” and proved that they still have that eerie avant-garde connection to the wellspring of ethereal creative conductivity that has once again manifested itself in this larger than life lumpen musicalis from which there is apparently no cure. OF THE LAST HUMAN BEING exemplifies the typical format of the SGM with 13 diverse tracks that take you through the roller coaster ride love affair of avant-prog, freakish metal, psycho-folk, screwball cabaret all the while narrating the musical maelstrom with some of the most head-scratching themes and lyrical content in the world of art rock. The wait is over and the feast is ready for serving. The album is just under 66 minutes long.

Fears of a botched comeback gone wrong are extinguished very quickly as the opening “Salamander In Two Worlds” evokes the same lullaby pacification that “Of Natural History” exhibited throughout its labyrinthine callithump. The tintinnabulation of xylophones and glockenspiels with Nils Frykdahl’s familiar vocal tones feel like a long lost friend. The track exhibits all those bittersweet contradictory musical factors: avant-prog time signature workouts and insane instrumental interplay that these gifted musicians are now famous for. The title makes you wonder if it refers in code to the announcement that SGM and Free Salamander Exit will exist simultaneously although literally the track actually refers to Theodora Kroeber’s biography “Ishi In Two World” which narrated the last known member of the Native American tribe, the Yahis. Ishi became a living museum exhibit and apparently now an exhibit at everyone’s favorite Dadaist institution.

While the opening track exhibits the SGM’s propensity for cleverly crafting intricately delicate melodic developments fortified with all kinds of complexities and dynamic shifts, the following “Fanfare For The Last Human Being” seems to extend back to Rathbun and Frykdahl’s Idiot Flesh days with a marching band type musical procession only embellished by violin-fueled folk and a Stravinksy classical flavor however it is a short instrumental and the third track “El Evil” jumps into the more familiar straight on metallic rockers of “In Glorious Times” only showcasing Carla Kihlstedt’s amazing violin shredding capacity. Strange tribal rhythms, erratic industrial guitar freneticism in avant-funk mode accompanied by Frykdahl’s best possessed by sheer evil vocal performances ensure that this album has lost none of the creative fortitude of its predecessors. All fears of an botched project have officially dissipated at this stage! Woohoo!!! And damn how do these MUSEUM curators make evil so fucking addictive!

The band has also lost none of its propensity for keeping the album flowing in different directions with the chimes of “El Evil” ceding perfectly into the chime-rich short instrumental “Bells For Kith And Kin” which makes you feel like you’ve been teleported to some Tibetan monastery! Next up “Silverfish” which allows Karla Kihlstedt to pacify the soul with her Bjork-ish vocal delivery. Dark and brooding the track begins as a Chelsea Wolfe type of dark ambient pop sound only with a melancholic jig styled violin accompaniment which offers a strange bedfellow with the witchy spell casting lyrical delivery. The following “S.P.Q.R.” actually dates back to 2004 and features one of the most frenetically demented bass runs of the band’s entire output. As the group sings along in unison it almost sounds like some bizarre ritual as the bass and violin shred like Pagini with eerie brooding atmospheres oozing in from the ethers.

“We Must Know More” is another throwback to the marching band rich Idiot Flesh days. Completely devoid of bass and guitar, the track features a tuba, trombone and Frykdahl delivering a sermon of surreality. The catchy melody is almost of commercial jingle value. Perhaps the catchiest track the band has ever released, at least the most accessible. Think of a barber quartet gone psycho-marching band and you’ll get the gist. “The Gift” jumps back into the brooding darkness and the jarring avant-prog musical processions that hop, skip and jump between slow passages and then erupt to fully ignited avant-metal rampage. In other words, it’s SGM caliber weird! “Hush Hush” comes next. One of the videos that served as a sneak peak is actually not indicative of the album as a whole. A tender ballad SGM style narrated by a fragile Carla Kihlstedt, the is brooding and stays in an eerie downtempo sort of speed with Kihlstedt’s vocals soft and contemplative however even this track breaks into a metal sequence in the middle before Kihlstedt regaining control

“Save It!” is one of the most spastic tracks and sounds like some sort of industrial avant-funk, something like you would expect if Primus and Einstürzende Neubauten were collaborating forces with Univers Zero. “Burn Into Light,” also released as a video, visually showcased a bizarre collision of a crow-human alchemist and humans seeking magical knowledge beyond their ability to control. The video was captivating and creepy as hell and what the musical score offers is no less so. An industrial metal rocker with the expected avant-prog workouts, this track fires on all pistons including Kihlstedt’s controlled violin contributions. “Old Grey Heron” is actually the longest track at 7 1/2 minutes. A tale of a heron who only wants humanity to get it together before the extinction event occurs, this post-rocker resembles the track “The Creature” from “Of Natural History” at least in Frykdahl’s lyrical delivery. The music is less punctuated by avant-prog stabs and rather remains calm and calculated and perhaps the most free-flowing track the band has thus penned. The time signature workouts are kept to a minimum and the minimalist approach (by SGM standards) ensures the message is uninterrupted. Even the metallic heaviness is more like a “normal” alternative rock / metal band than anything remotely SGM. The trumpet adds a nice mariachi band touch.

You have to put your rose-colored glasses on for the album’s grand finale, “Rose-Colored Song” which bookends the album much like it began with a tinkling of a glockenspiel that resembles a music box and a fairy tale soundtrack quality with psycho-cabaret overtones. As the Disneyland-esque theme park ride giddiness cedes to bizarre industrial sound effects, the sputters on aimlessly allowing a dark brooding atmosphere to slowly bid you farewell from the latest MUSEUM exhibit. Once against the light and the dark wrestle for world domination and once again a truce of the forces keeps the cliffhanger in perpetual motion. And then it’s done leaving you to wonder how this album stacks up against its predecessors. Well after a few spins already, i have to say REMARKABLY WELL! With nothing left to prove it seems that SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM was content to simply mine its entire history in order to retain a sense of familiarity yet allowing new ideas to organically coalesce into the greater mix. In other words this album exceeded all expectations and proves to me that this band of musical troupes really is one of the most creative forces on the planet par none.

OF THE LAST HUMAN BEING really does feel like a continuation of the band’s earlier trilogy and although i have heard no announcements of the band’s future, we can only hope that at least another trilogy is on the drawing board. While my expectations were set low as to avoid any disappointment whatsoever, it comes as one of the most pleasant surprises of 2024 that a band so talented could pull off a proper comeback nearly two decades down the pike. A brilliant and instantly palatable set of tracks will allow any fans to instantly regale in past endeavors only set to the immediacy of the 2020s. Perhaps a bit more accessible than the albums that preceded but only in a way that is logical and allows the continuity of the album’s entire run to play out. It’s true that the metal aspects of “In Glorious Times” have been tamped down quite a bit but on the bright side the playful and often giddy larger playground of instrumentation that was so missed on the previous album has returned to generate one of the most ingenious album experiences of the 2020s. SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM is not only back with a new exhibit but one has produced yet another masterpiece of magnetic music magic unlike any other. Oh rejoice for the pleasures of life are too fleeting and too few.

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