Singer/guitarist Danny Barria must be feigning modesty when he announces “We’re gonna try and work it out” on the opening track of Nature Experiments, the third LP from Brooklyn rock duo the Big Sleep. Contrary to the album’s title, there is nothing clumsy or half-assed about the following 10 tracks—even if they are stylistically schizophrenic compared to the band’s 2008 LP, Sleep Forever. Stripped of filler and coalesced by the ever tighter chemistry of singer/bassist Sonya Balchandani’s silk-ribbon voice and Barria’s barbed-wire fret work, Nature Experiments is 35 minutes of purely produced, carefully cultivated, unmercifully neck-straining ____-rock (fill in the blank with “prog,” “post,” “psych,” “alt,” “jock” or “other” depending on which track you’re listening to).
Leading single “Ace” provides the album’s template of instrumental economy early on. While Balchandani lays a gentle flow, Barria utilizes every part of his axe, palm-muting, power-chord pummeling and string-bending layers of sound into an ordered fracas. From here things grow weirder, stretching horizontally across genres but never straying from that golden mean of soothing vocals and enveloping electric noise that makes every track as sharp and clean as a greased bayonet. “Valentine” plays like a bizarrely satisfying goth/pop Mark Mothersbaugh soundtrack, where Barria puts on his best Bauhaus deadpan over a MIDI keyboard flat-line. Back track “Four Wishes” seamlessly satisfies the Big Sleep’s infatuation with prog-rock movement, chugging in three and a half minutes through stuttering Coheed And Cambria-flavored power chords, wordless choruses of escalating fuzz and a curtain-closing solo of unruly, squawking treble.
It’s saying a lot that the testosterone-y guitar riffs, cymbal crashes and beatdown-provoking lyrics on “Meet Your Maker” register in the album’s weaker moments. The track is so pungent with well-preserved Jock Jams cheese it’s hard to tell whether the band is shooting for super-convincing parody or genuine balls-out bravado, but it doesn’t much matter. If the Big Sleep intended a record of 10 tracks designed explicitly to get listeners pumped, then the band can call these experiments a roaring success.