Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sleep 'Dopesmoker' 2 x Southern Lord LP

The legend goes something like this: seminal Stoner-rock band Sleep released two well-received independent LP's ('Volume 1.' and 'Sleep's Holy Mountain) before causing a major label bidding war.

After being courted by several labels, they signed to London (being promised total artistic control) for a significant advance, which they then blew on pot and custom-made hand-wired backline.

Over the previous couple of years, the band had been crafting their magnum opus; secreting away riffs and ideas and not even playing them live so that, once recorded, the LP would be a complete artistic statement.

After several months working with their regular Engineer/Producer Billy Anderson (with whom they made both of their previous records), they hand in potentially the most uncommercial major label release ever: an LP consisting of one 63 minute song called 'Dopesmoker'; a quasi-spiritual epic, ('Chronicle of the sensimillian') telling the story of a (possibly alien) tribe called 'Lungsmen' crossing the desert to Jerusalem to deliver pot ('the creed of the Hashishian').
Unsurprisingly, London refused to release the LP in its submitted form - though did try to "salvage" something release-able by passing it to Producer Dave Sardy to provide additional post-production. A few test pressings and promos went out under the title of 'Jerusalem' a year later (1997) with the original track (less around ten minutes that was discarded) divided into sections. By this time Sleep had already split up. (Guitarist Matt Pike later formed the more metal orientated High On Fire, in which he also provides lead vocals; Bassist/Vocalist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius formed Om).

Over the years, the stoner rock movement grew up in Sleep's image and the LP became legendary, without most people having heard it. A full version was finally released on Tee Pee Records in 2003 (without Sardy's  additional production).

Last year, Southern Lord again re-released the LP, this time with approved remastering and new cover art, and it's the deluxe 2 x purple LP version (Ltd. to 4000 copies) that I've bought.
It is an absolutely beautiful package.

I've become familiar with bits of the LP over the years but last weekend sat and listened to it in it's entirety on my Fostex studio monitor speakers. The LP absolutely matches the hype - it is a compelling, rolling masterpiece.
Sleep's Matt Pike (Pictured here with High on Fire, Wellington, Feb 2011)

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