Sleepy Sun – Embrace (ATP)
With great psychedelia comes great control, an acid-laden, tweaking, dribbling, bearded and shack-dwelling Spiderman’s uncle might say. And he’d be right. Whatever you think about the current (and seemingly everlasting) appeal of modern psychedelia is a confusing one, where praise appears to be doled out simply for compositional length. “Whoah… a 17-minute track… that’s heavy…” Yes mate, and it’s also likely to be devolving shite. Psychedelic music, though often mood-based, can still lithely change gears to maintain the interest. If it’s hypnotic, it’s not because the same thing is being repeated over and over, it’s because the listener’s been drawn in by subtle changes they weren’t looking out for.
Sleepy Sun, with their woozy name and freaky vibes, have managed ably to sidestep any notions of over-indulgence because they’ve fused enough melody with their occasionally lengthy jams. A thundering, bass-heavy beginning to New Age immediately ushers in an invincible stoner groove, but one with enough development to shepherd the listener to its climax. Dynamics rise and fall, harmonising guitar interjections separate the verses, and the bass simply swims throughout the whole while the textures change around it. It’s something of a masterclass in pop-psychedelic composition, a championing of restrained but constant intrigue.
Though they are immediately more accessible, even loveable on their more traditional song structures (like the drippy, glooping and glorious Lord), it is the manageable experimentation that charms the most. White Dove is the longest track on Embrace (eyes down, freak-out fans!), but also one of the most forward-looking. When it initially erupts into yet another un-hateable, blues-scale-straddling, echo-laden psych-fondle, one might expect this vein to continue for its whole nine minutes. But the timbres change, the drums patter in 16ths to accentuate the gulf in dynamics, and we are really rewarded when the groove comes back. And it does come back frequently, with changes each time. In their final statement, the initial riffs are truly battering, sludgy Maltesers of great worth and weight. That it collapses into a concluding two minutes of harmonica-led strumming is welcome release from all that heady and inventive hysteria.
Maybe it’s because the band are being branded as a traditionally zonked-out act that many may be sceptical. To call them psychedelic is certainly accurate, but to infer as part of that a stream of clichés about beards, jams and forests is to do the album a disservice. Sleepy Sun themselves, according to the press release, apparently fully subscribe to all this hippy-ish silliness. Their catchphrase is “let’s get weird”, they bang on about being inspired by horticulture and the sea and they, y’know, just jam and stuff, but do they know the difference between all that and what their music sounds like? Embrace has work on it that deliberately resists the over-liberated freedom of traditional psychedelia (you might say that Sleepy Sun are Faust dressed as Creedence) but it’s in danger of being forgotten. The album itself is a triumph, but will people see it?
Listen to Sleepy Sun here. Embrace comes out via ATP on May 11th.