Before Gardens After Gardens, the third full length from Big Sir

Rodriguez Lopez Productions and Sargent House have been expanding on dozens of releases over the last few years with the plethora of artists that exists between the two. Connected at the heart by Cathy Pellow, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and many others, this is a movement of sound and vision that is gaining considerable reputation as progressive minds are evolving even further from their origins. Boris, Fang Island, Native, Zechs Marquise, Le Butcherettes, Hella, there are so many genre defining artists to name that it’s hard to really sum up the label and Big Sir is one group out of the entire whole that we have been anticipating a new LP from the most. 2012 has been a phenomenal year for music culture already and the arrival of the latest Big Sir album, Before Gardens After Gardens, only adds more depth to the shape of this year. Based around the multi-instrumental and vocal work of Lisa Papineau and the Jaco Pastorius inspired tones of bassist of The Mars Volta, Juan Alderete, Big Sir is rooted in as many fields of electronica as they are in heavy doses of jazz, pop, hip-hop and so much more. It’s a sound all its own and genre definition becomes some what meaningless in the emotional power and provocative nature of the music. 2000 saw the release of their self titled debut release on the short lived Mootron Records and the follow up, Und Die Scheiße Ändert Sich Immer, would be released 6 years later to further critical acclaim. Und Die Scheiße Ändert Sich Immer was given the special vinyl treatment on the Sonny Kay and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez owned imprint Gold Standard Laboratories (GSL). Exactly 6 years later we find a new gestation period and a new cycle of life from Big Sir and it feels right on time with the latest Big Sir offering Before Gardens After Gardens. 11 songs and a little under 40 minutes in length, Before Gardens After Gardens is the summation of the last 12 years of the band and what feels like a launching pad for where Big Sir is going to take their sound in the future. The smooth, sonically blissful fretless bass work from Juan Aldrete creates a florescence that saturates itself into the mix. The bass tones pick up in such a frequency and full mode of sound that it knocks the middle and higher register of the wave patterns into the center of the mix. Stanley Clarke, Jaco, Ron Carter, there are only a dozen out of 1000’s bass players who can add this level of emotional quality into the bass foundations and Juan is walking in these steps actively with every record he touches. Adding a nice pair of headphones only intensifies the listen and adds to the perceptual depth of what long time The Mars Volta engineer Robert Carranza added to this LP.

‘Region’s begins Before Gardens After Gardens, with Juan’s unmistakable eerie fretless bass tone taking no time to pronounce itself and become a dominating aura of color. Not many bass players can play with such class, tonality and style where every approach is accentuated into tones rarely used and a feeling and depth of every note is constant. Lisa Papineau’s vocal layering is heavenly, stirring up an imaginative circle of emotional cycles, with crescendos and descending break down sections at every corner. The drum pattern is tightly grooved and Juan never looses focus of the pocket, always descending and ascending with Lisa as the intention and scope of the piece dives deeper and deeper into Lisa’s oddly shaped lyrical presentation. As the vocals cut out, there is a phenomenal and ancient sounding sample that stands as tall and powerful as a 1000 year old tree. This moment allows a drastic setting to change and the song cycles onward from the basic foundation of melody is started with. Never before have I thought of Timbaland and Jaco Pastorius in the same song, but the tones make my mind wander unlike any branching of music I have been exposed to. The ending section of ‘Regions’ concludes with a blissful state of electronics as the drum patterns become more intricate and the samples and synth work become more saturated into the field of sound. There is a softness to Lisa’s vocal work that balances the music from the synthetic barrage of metallic sheeting. Juan dives into the same book of emotions on his bass and the two become seamless through sound. The piece ‘The Ladder’ shows this subtle interaction between the two in the most delicate way. Lisa starts off the piece with a very warm and large sounding synth part that is met with cascading small layers of extra samples and synth but each cycle is a shading or shadow from a bigger piece that doesn’t fully come to focus. Juan uses his fretless again and runs long slides up and down of his vintage bass, waxing the music over with a very glossy and elegant feeling that only certain types of stringed instrumentation can bring out. Juan’s technique pushes this sound to a very dreamy state with the synth coloring further aspects of the dream in place. Lisa never looses focus even as the song becomes more dreamy and her vocals are as subdued and breath taking as the overall mood of the piece.

Big Sir / Rodriguez Lopez Productions & Sargent House. Photo by Marianne Williams

‘The Kindest Hour’ the song that follows ‘The Ladder’ is easily my favorite song on the record. With a silky smooth and heavy bass line that ends on a series of harmonics, the vocal tandem between Matt Embree of RX Bandits and Lisa is out of this world. The organ builds on a layer of fluid and electric emotional responses, bubbling upward and upwards, becoming more pronounced as the vocals act in the same manner. There is a type of spiritual feeling as the under tones become more clear and Juan guides the band from beginning to end. There is an elaborate scheme of drum work, the type of drum work that leaves all the room for the melody but adds enough depth to fill on the needed gaps of space. The second half of the song is really built on a head nodding groove, with beautiful, more pronounced and still in the pocket drum work. The level of beauty in the vocals makes this song shine so bright, even with the eerie break down section that eludes away from vocals and introduces a very auspicious and intriguing sound. Once the drums cut loose and you hear the full on groove of where this song goes, everyone becomes synced in heavily and the type of euphoric ambiance of Lisa’s under pinned statements bring a very special feeling to this song. ‘The Kindest Hour’ is the reason I love this band so much and can’t stop coming back to this album. It’s one of the few songs I have put on repeat in a long time for lengths that extend beyond an hour.

Before Gardens After Gardens sheds a lot of ground and features a lot of members and friends of the ORLP and Sargent House families. Guests include Deantoni Parks, Jonathan Hischke, Matt Embree, Teri Gender Bender, Cedric Bixler Zavala, among many others. Electrifying and a big representation of the Los Angeles world that has dominated the lives of both of the duo’s relationship as friends and musical colleagues, Before Gardens After Gardens is a conceptually beautifully ride. It serves as a representation of two musical collaborators and friends of over a decade who have utilized every medium possible based on their strict schedules and obligations to other projects to create music that they love and feel the world needs to hear. Don’t miss out on getting a copy of Before Gardens, After Gardens, one of our favorites of the year thus far.

-Erik Otis

Big Sir “Before Gardens Afters Gardens”
Rodriguez Lopez Productions / Sargent House

  1. Regions
  2. Ready On The Line
  3. Infidels
  4. Right Action
  5. The Ladder
  6. The Kindest Hour
  7. Old Blood
  8. Born With A Tear
  9. Be Brave Go On
  10. Our Pleasant Home
  11. 1 Thousand Petals

Buy Before Gardens After Gardens and much more @ Hello Merch


Also, don’t miss out on the interview we conducted with Lisa and Juan of Big Sir this year.


There are many great cameos in Before Gardens After Gardens (Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Jonathan Hischke, Matthew Embree, Deantoni Parks, just to name a few). When the two of you have worked together for all these years, how did you approach creative input from these additional artists, and do you give these musicians a sense of free reign regarding their part in Before Gardens After Gardens or the album as a whole?  8) What is it that you look for, or take into consideration, when throwing out names of guests for a Big Sir album?

Juan: We have an idea of what we are hoping to hear from our cohorts and that is, what they seem to always bring to anything they work on…their musicality.  Money Mark for instance, always brings in some crazy keyboard or plays a keyboard at the studio in some unconventional way yet, still, you know it’s him.  Cedric has such a unique approach to drums that is not like any drummer.  His Defacto records prove it.  Hischke always has some new bass sound that never sounds like any bass you have ever heard.  It’s that uniqueness that we both love and how it always fits in our music.

Full Interview @ Sound Colour Vibration

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