Almost every review of Team Sleep's eponymous debut uses the same set of words: "hypnotic," "trancelike," "dreamy." In an standout fit of elocution, Revolver calls it both "majestic" and "eerie."
The thing is, they're all right. The band clearly is geared to providing atmospheric, relentlessly quirky music in the vein of, well, nobody.
"If there's anything that's weird about it, it's just because of the way we made the record, recording stuff at home and then recording at the studio and then putting everything together," says founding member and guitarist Todd Wilkinson. "At this point, there's a market for the Flaming Lips. On the weirdness scale, we don't exist compared to those dudes. In a lot of ways, I think we're pretty conservative."
Team Sleep began as a tape-trading and recording project by Wilkinson, Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and turntablist Crook in their hometown of Sacramento, Calif.
"It started, more or less, as me and Chino playing guitar and recording stuff on a four-track," says Wilkinson. "And then we'd give stuff to Crook, and he'd make beats and we'd write over that. That was the intention.
"We don't have a normal songwriting process, where we go into a studio or a garage and sit down together and write songs. We had to invent our own process. Right now, we're fine-tuning it. Back then, we were still inventing it. I think we're getting better at it."
For Moreno, the band is a conscious departure from his other group, blending programmed drums with guitars and synthy whimsy into a weird goulash of ambience, rhythmic throb and creepy Parselmouth vocals. (This is no small feat for Moreno, whose voice otherwise sounds almost exactly like a Learjet taking off.)
Demos recorded with the founding trio and Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham featured Helium singer Mary Timony, who, along with Pinback frontman Rob Crow, provides vocal cameos on Team Sleep.
Following a short West Coast tour, the group solidified into a five-piece, with Hella's Zach Hill on drums and Rick Verrett on bass. That the group features members from high-profile bands may help get people to the shows, but Wilkinson doesn't see it as a conceptual linchpin.
"I think it's only a band or side project or first project or whatever ... if you're looking at it from the outside in. From our perspective, we're just friends who play music. It's like saying, is it a rock band, or an emo band, or is it punk? I don't even know. That's somebody else's thing."
Well, it's not rock and it's not electronica. The styles Team Sleep employ are unwed, running the gamut from the sparse, ghostly and off-meter in "Our Ride to the Rectory" to a Kyuss/Sabbath drone in "Live from the Stage." "King Diamond" sounds like a strangled remix of, among other things, the Mortal Kombat theme song.
Not that the album hinges on schizophrenia; Team Sleep's greatest skill is in crystallizing varied forms into a broad, faceted repose. Team Sleep is hushed but pounding, spooky but hooky, and a totally engrossing listen -- if not in spite of, than because of, the rampaging mlange of influences.
"If you're trying to listen to music and have that identity of being attached to one genre, then you're only going to listen to one kind of music," Wilkinson says. But all of us grew up in places where we were exposed to a lot of different things. Instead of being, 'I want to be a punk rock dude' or 'I want to be a hip-hop dude,' we just took the attitude of, 'Well, this is good music, no matter what it is.'
"I think that when you do that, you're bound to appreciate music more, and obviously different kinds of music. We never thought about blending different kinds of music. That's just what we like."
-- Aaron Retka
Team Sleep with Idiot Pilot and Scene Index
Darkside, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Wednesday, July 20, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $12-15; call 635-0657 or visit teamsleep.com.