Sleep Lady Central Valley (Self-released)
Everything Sleep Lady does is epic. The San Diego post-rock outfit specializes in big, sweeping sounds, providing dramatic crescendos à la Mogwai and erupting into colossal climaxes in the fashion of Isis. Whether building tension through quiet passages or exploding with heaps of distortion, Sleep Lady packs one hell of a punch.
Yet, the 18-minute running time of new EP Central Valley might give listeners the false impression that they're scaling back. In fact, the opposite is true: "Central Valley" is one, uninterrupted, 18-minute track, showcasing all of Sleep Lady's grandeur and musical theatrics in one king-size song.
And a damn fine song it is, if something of this scope can be reduced to that term. In true post-rock fashion, it follows a familiar quiet-loud-quiet-loud dynamic. But "Central Valley" is by no means predictable, and even when pursuing a signature postrock approach, it has its share of thrills to spare. From the get-go, the tension begins to rise, with a momentum-building drum beat that seems ready to detonate at any moment.
The moment of action arrives at 3:06, when guitarists Michael Hayden and Mario Quintero swap booming, thunderous riffs. And were "Central Valley" to end immediately after this early cli max, it would still be a triumph—the kind of music meant to soundtrack marathons or ascents to Valhalla. This is truly heroic music. But music this heroic often doesn't stop short, and in its second act, it transitions to a more atmospheric, Godspeed You! Black Emperor-like ambience.
This is only a prelude to an even louder, sludgier crunch around the 11-minute mark, making a clean break from a gentle instrumental into a booming roar of metal and then closing out as a lullaby. "Central Valley" could have very well been split up into three separate tracks, yet if it were, it would lose much of its power and emotional weight. Sleep Lady didn't hold back on this one.