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SUNWATCHERS

Sunwatchers

Oh Yeah?

    New York quartet ’s fourth album. Recorded by Josh Druckman at The Outlier Inn.

    Despite (perhaps) being the band’s most accessible & melodic work to date, New York quartet Sunwatchers‘ fourth album arrives in a flurry of notes with the buzzing hum of “Sunwatchers vs. Tooth Decay”; the title referencing a 1976 album featuring athlete and activist Muhammad Ali. A cheeky nod to be sure, but laced with the utmost reverence. This attitude sums up Sunwatchers’ aesthetic in a nutshell; the acknowledgement (typically via the band’s irreverent song titles or album art) that the things in life we should take seriously are better faced and understood when disarmed by a wink or nudge. The band may cloak their fiery activism in a jester ’s outfit, but it does nothing to dull the force of their attack.

    The one-two punch of “Love Paste” & “Brown Ice” hits next, with the former ’s tender opening melody punctuated by exuberant “WOO!”s while the latter launches into an urgent, stuttering march that utilizes an effective musical wind-up and release, ratcheting up a ferocious intensity across its near six minute runtime. “Thee Worm Store” closes out the first side, beginning with a lumbering synth growl, until it picks up speed and ends as a frantic noisy free-for-all. Side two strides forth with “The Conch”, an obvious ‘Lord of The Flies’ reference, and a delicious subversion of the idea of a “hero’s anthem” weighted down by the trappings of tribalism. The album’s showstopper however is “The Earthsized Thumb”, the near twenty-minute closing track. Guitarist Jim McHugh lays down a hypnotic Saharan guitar melody as the rest of the band ushers themselves in one by one over the tune’s distinct musical movements, a cosmic “Quick One” for all the heads perhaps?

    The album’s title “Oh Yeah?” is at once an homage to Mingus, Thee Oh Sees’ album “Help” (whose Brigid Dawson hand-sewed the tapestry adorning the album’s front cover), and (naturally) the rallying cry of KoolBrave himself - the Kool-Aid Man-as-Braveheart avatar the band adopted as their symbol. The three years since the band’s second album (and TiM debut) “II” was released, has seen the band grace stages across the USA and Europe, enlisting more comrades in their mission of solidarity (sonically speaking) with every show.

    Brooklyn ensemble Sunwatchers return with the incendiary follow up to their 2016 eponymous debut, the appropriately titled “II”. The quartet continues to defy adequate description, incorporating elements of free jazz, psychedelia, punk, Ethiopian and Thai music and funk into a dizzy, invigorating sound. “II” kicks off with the click of sticks and launches into “Nosebeers”, a righteous burner that writhes and squawks with heady desert vibes and white hot saxophone, sounding not unlike something akin to Group Doueh jamming with John Zorn. “The Hot Eye” is next, and the band doesn’t let up revving up an anxious marching beat into a raging squall that ebbs & flows with tidal waves of horn and guitar.

    The band has more in store for listeners, easing into the third track “There Are Weapons You Can Bring To School”. With it ’s contemplative tone, the song sets a mood for the album, righteous, socially conscious messaging, no more evident than the message embriodered onto the tapestry that graces the front cover artwork: “SUNWATCHERS STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE DISPOSSESSED, IMPOVERISHED AND EMBATTLED PEOPLE OF THE WORLD”. The band considers it both a mission statement & a battle cry: “We are musicians, and we will leave political specifics to those more qualified than we are. All the time and energy and passion we can muster we dedicate to writing, performing, recording and releasing music: instrumental music, released from the tyranny of semantics into the freedom and hopefulness of universality-ofconnection. We thusly realize the need to become overt about our own intentions and our own mores; without the ease and accessibility of direct language, the onus is on us to express our principles in other ways.”

    STAFF COMMENTS

    says: A completely indescribable cataclysm of modern-jazz, experimental psychedelia and soaring, majestic post-rock. Mind-blowingly clever and brilliantly immersive freakouts tempered by slow-burning hypnotic grooves. Outstanding.


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