Los Angeles has served as the birthplace for many memorable musical acts throughout popular music’s history and that tradition continues with Alisha Zalkin and Dan Kalisher’s project Sleep Machine. The band’s latest single “Mother” is culled from their debut record and highlights their enormous talents giving blues rock a modern revamping that sacrifices none of its time-tested virtues. This single release builds on a swell of momentum the band has enjoyed since the successful release of their debut EP Cover Me in Gold and placing their material in various promotional hotspots, including Entertainment Weekly and television shows like ABC’s Quantico, among other outlets. They received a generous amount of well earned critical recognition that they’ve parlayed into plum appearances in popular venues like LA’s Viper Room and The Hotel Café. This sophomore release positions them to reach a whole new level of mainstream recognition and spread their music further than ever before.
Zalkin’s vocals are impressively physical yet soulful at the same time. The spartan opening to “Mother” wraps her aching blues around Kalisher’s unembellished, spot on guitar lines. Sleep Machine gives way to occasional blasts of bombast and works in some swampy slide licks into the mix as the song continues developing; all these things are part and parcel of the form, but Kalisher and Zalkin shoot the song full of commercial appeal while still coming off like a live wire of a recording. There’s precious little, if any, suggestion that this is some sort of studio creation. Instead, “Mother” sounds like it was laid down live in the studio and the combustible interplay generated between Zalkin’s singing and the musical arrangement pays off enormously for both the artists and audience alike. The drumming keeps things simple, but there’s some meaty power and swing behind the percussion that gives “Mother” a lot of entertaining punch.
The lyrics for “Mother” may cover some familiar ground, but Zalkin’s songwriting talents speak with such individuality that you forgive any familiarity. The forcefulness and charisma of her personality come through in the words, but its vocal skill and phrasing talents that really make things come to life. The list of duos emerging in the last quarter century with the sort of spark that makes for long careers is a short list indeed, but there’s little question that Sleep Machine’s unique refurbishing of classic blues rock with a singer/songwriter sensibility has the legs to carry this duo far into the future together. There’s little question, as well, that the duo’s latest studio release Animal High likely contains every bit of the passion, intelligence, and pure visceral power that we hear in this explosive first single. Sleep Machine is unlike any other act hailing from the Los Angeles area today and their music is covered with the sweat, tears, and spirit of a life well lived.