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Sleep Like Trees: You're Alright (Self-Released) 

From the opening seconds of "Nice Scissors, Chief," Sleep Like Trees establish the sound of their debut album, You're Alright: early Modest Mouse, but without the vocals, bass guitar, keyboards or anything else.

But that's less than half the story; the sound has little to do with the style. Guitarist Ben Kohlhepp and drummer Michael Fay invert the typical instrumental rock band format by anchoring their songs in simple, repetitive melodies, leaving the percussion to splatter paint across Sleep Like Trees' panoramic universe.

Forget about the stoned-to-the-bone song titles—"Fear it!! Fear the Smiling Banana" and "Oh, I'm All About Shotgunning Weed Through a Mailslot" offer no indication of the waves of bliss that populate the record. In fact, You're Alright plays as one long piece of shifting dynamics and cascading textures with very little change in mood throughout.

Sleep Like Trees combine the tranquil passages of late-'80s Sonic Youth, latter-day experimental borderline rock groups like Radiohead and Sigur Ros, and the ideology of free-jazz pioneers Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane: most definitely arty, but not self-conscious or pretentious. The album's centerpiece, the nearly nine-minute "Wow, I Totally Went All RPG for a Second There," reaches a stunning plateau after six minutes of naked guitar ambience. The final track, "Cats on Cars (Cats in Trees)," is another highlight of the gorgeous lullaby music that defines the record from beginning to end.

More by Joshua Levine

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