The Big Sleep | Son of the Tiger (Frenchkiss)

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The Brooklyn trio has developed its... quaint My Bloody Valentine impersonation into a fully formed psych-rock beast, equally capable of soothing with gentle melodies as it is of slaughtering with a menacing attack.

 


The most striking thing about the Big Sleep's first full-length album Son of the Tiger is how well the band has nailed the dark psych-rock sound it sought to achieve. The Brooklyn trio has developed its 2002 debut EP You Today, Me Tomorrow's quaint My Bloody Valentine impersonation into a fully formed psych-rock beast, equally capable of soothing with gentle melodies as it is of slaughtering with a menacing attack. Producer Kevin McMahon (unrelated to the author) and the band have a knack for using just the right amount of echo, distortion, or feedback on the dominant musical theme while mixing accompanying parts at the right level, key for a mostly instrumental album. Son of a Tiger also showcases the group's great chemistry. Sonya Balchandani's bass lines compliment the guitar and keyboard parts well, and Aaron Carroll ties it all together with drumming that fits each song perfectly.

However, The Big Sleep's attention to detail sometimes comes at the expense of its songwriting. The group doesn't write bad songs, but they occasionally underdevelop or overextend ideas. A good example of song that does both is "Are You Ready (for Love)." Over a minimalist synth part, the drums crash and the distorted guitar howls with feedback. The atmosphere is well done but the chord progression barely changes, which results in a stale track. Similarly, "You Can't Touch the Untouchable" resorts to cheap tricks in an attempt to stay fresh. The group uses subtle but effective variations on the track's nice robotic groove until it approaches the three-minute mark. Here, the melody fades out while the guitar continues to squeal before the Big Sleep employ a set of baffling stops, including one that last six seconds, as the song fades out. This takes a lot of the impact out of an otherwise good track. Lastly, "Locomotion" gets by more on its wicked guitar slide and eerie harmonic sounds than it does on its melodies.

Still, the album hits more than it misses. Openers "Brown Beauty" and "Murder" immediately engage the listener with ferocious, driving riffs. "Murder" in particular has an excellent switch-up in its chorus where the band transitions through seemingly disparate progressions with ease. The Big Sleep also craft charming songs with sweeping, open arrangements. "S.K.B." features a great downbeat keyboard melody with a shimmering guitar and Balchandani's lovely vocals punctuating the song. "Menemy" also features a beautiful melancholy feel. Perhaps most impressive though is "Shima," whose circular guitar and drum work combine with the deceptively pretty vocals to create an underlying tension that builds throughout the song.

With Son of the Tiger, the Big Sleep is poised to make a big splash in the space-rock scene. It is a tad long-winded and it may not convert new fans to the genre, but the album's songwriting and execution is ultimately satisfying. A promising album from a promising band.

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