Saturday, February 13, 2010

of Sound

Sun, Em-



From the first few notes of tribal opener "New Age," I knew Embrace was for me.
The driving rhythms of Love & Rockets meet the mystery of
Loop in this San Francisco sextet's glorious lysergic stomp.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Embrace this dark place where I stand, and sing.
Oh sing into me, then I'll live another day.
-- "Duet with the Northern Sky"

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

You can barely hear it on record, but live on stage, the twin in-
fluences of folk and blues rise to the surface, and they more clear-
ly recall Jefferson Airplane, the Rolling Stones (especially "Sym-
pathy for the Devil"), and early Black Sabbath. It's rare to find a
band with such a pronounced split personality. The good news
is that both versions of Sleepy Sun are well worth your time.

Recently, the Bay Area collective opened up for Mudhoney at
Neumo's in Seattle, and were so unbelievably tight I feared they
might blow the Seattle veterans off the stage. If they didn't, that's
partly because Mudhoney offers something so different, some-
thing that scratches a different itch; more Stooges, less MC5.

Not having seen the Sub Pop quartet in years, I was pleased to
find that they hadn't lost a step...even if they had lost original
bassist Matt Lukin. Compared to Sleepy Sun, they're more
direct, and with Mark Arm as front man, less self-serious.

But they're not psychedelic, and that's a key difference.
Both outfits share a predilection for the occasional pierc-
ing scream and deftly employed guitar effect—recall that
Mudhoney titled their 1988 debut Superfuzz Bigmuff
but Arm's acerbic lyrics grab for the throat, while
Sleepy Sun takes a more diffuse approach.

They also try things the former never would, like the bongos
on "Golden Artifact" and the barbershop harmonies on "White
Dove." What they do isn't louder, but bigger—more a mountain
of sound than a wall. And with Embrace, a re-release of their
2008 debut, they issued one of 2009's best albums.

Endnote: For more information about Sleepy
Sun, please click here. Image from 3C Tour.

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