Originally released as part of the 2014 "Adult Swim" singles series and quickly selling out a limited vinyl press of its own, stoner royalty SLEEP is again making available its highly sought single, "The Clarity". This is the first body of work SLEEP has produced since the insuperable pot-pourri that was 1998's "Dopesmoker".
"The Clarity" is the resonance of a weed-wafting doom group no doubt surprised by its scene elevation to legends. SLEEP's members these days have, of course, gone in different directions to much success. Matt Pike has taken HIGH ON FIRE to such heights that the band has become equally important to contemporary sludge and doom metal. Al Cisneros has had great runs with OM—which, for a while, included former SLEEP drummer Chris Hakius—and his solo work, in addition to his stint with the doom super group, SHRINEBUILDER.
In 2010, NEUROSIS drummer Jason Roeder joined the revived SLEEP, and "The Clarity" benefits as much from veteran fortitude as it does a playful resumption of the haze-charmed tones packed inside "Dopesmoker" and "Jerusalem". Only this time, there's more style as there is a conscience effort to clean up the hash-flecked residue from the proverbial sofa at SLEEP's riffed-out bong party.
"The Clarity" was reportedly recorded in two days, yet the near-ten-minute track is so polished one would've assumed a week, if not a couple, might've been invested. The colloquialism, "these guys do it in their sleep," may deserve a palm slap upside the noodle, but it is too great to pass up. This track is effortless, and for fans, completely sedating. For the Southern Lord 12-inch vinyl reissue, a new, logo-like comic cover replaces the Dada-esque art on the original "Adult Swim" pressing, so let either be your portal into drone delight.
Ever-shifting and stocked with the usual crawling bombast SLEEP made its rep on, the glaring obviousness to "The Clarity" is its crisp, spotless production. As the pace dwindles to a minimalist trudge about halfway through its slothful march, Al Cisneros's murmuring bass lines are gobbled by Matt Pike's searing guitar solo. Pike emits what rings like the final, psychedelic squawks of a dying cockatoo. His solo departure is marked by an intensified reprise of the original melody before Jason Roeder's strokes themselves dwindle and expire beneath a squashing reverb of guitar. With headphones, the final buzzing notes tickle the ear canals. Yet the most striking effect as the song hits the 9:52 mark is how efficiently the whole thing has moved.
While Jason Roeder has his hands full with a new NEUROSIS album to tour, and Matt Pike all but expected to keep the iron sizzling after 2015's HIGH ON FIRE joint "Luminiferous", one has to question how soon, if at all, there will be more SLEEP material. For now, "The Clarity" will have to satiate, but the cool thing about it is, it never grows old with repeat play.