Sunwatchers - Sunwatchers

by Mark Steele Rating:8 Release Date:2016-03-26

This album will trip out the musically brave, especially those who dig Alice Coltrane, Carlos Santana in his Devadip guise, Deep Purple, 70s progressive rock, and Miles Davis during his electric period. To put it plain, jazz and rock music has just got together again to conceive it’s newest offspring, and it is going to make cosmic waves on the current music scene.

Sunwatchers, the cosmic collective from New York City, are Jim McHugh (guitar, electric phin (a Thai sitar/guitar-type instrument)); Peter Kerlin –(bass); Jeff Tobias  (alto sax); Cory Bracken (vibes, percussion); Jason Robira (drums). Also featured are Dave Harrington (guitar, synth); Ben Greenberg (guitar); Dave Kadden (keyboard); Jonah Rapino (fiddle). The album's painted artwork is of legendary wrestler, Handsome Jimmy Valiant and it rightly depicts a band with a sound that will take a lot of grappling with by the ears.

The term Punk Jazz Drone has been used to describe the bands sound, yet they also seem to easily blend elements of Ethiopian Jazz borrowings with an incendiary avant-garde edge. If you get the opportunity to catch the band live,  in person or via a video clip, it should give you a better insight into the multiple layered expressions occurring simultaneously.

The self-titled album begins with ‘Herd Of Creeps’, captivating us in a hypnotic motif ramble of guitars and saxophone, stomping drums and synchronised bass then join the fray. This is a futuristic King Crimson meets The Teardrop Explodes caught in a rampantly rapid moving wormhole to another galaxy. Plenty of neat saxophone flourishes over a harbouring harmonic onslaught which towards the end is reminiscient of Jimi Hendrix jam ‘Message To Love’. Already after the first track you feel like, here we go again ‘For Sonny’, spaced out cosmological strutting jazz-funk.  A fluid blues riff played in unison by guitar or maybe the Phin, plus bass and horns caught in the throes of seriously getting down to it, which is made that more climatic with the intensive instrument solos -  a game-raising welcome return to influential classic soundscapes.  It becomes a bit of a dark and moody indigo feel on ‘White Woman’, let us say what could be The Mahavishnu Orchestra becoming annoyed and providing a break neck death metal drum and bass piledriving assault, which is this reviewer’s best description of music that is this fearsome and unfriendly.

A time to catch your breath in a John Coltrane/Jimi Hendrix type opening section on ‘Eusubius’ splish splashing rambling drums and saxophone cavorts with guitar in a rites of spring manner. The phased out phaser delayed guitar intro coupled with locked in saxophone on ‘Ape Phases’ lures you in by their repetitious minimalist grasp, which holds you down and pelts you forward in it’s discordant bad trip, it is as though you try to run but cannot get anywhere. The classic blues ‘Cat’s Squirrel’ riff gets a re-entry on the sprawling mind melting ‘Moroner’ as it keeps you in check by will and by whim, by jolting incessantly like a firmly connected electric cattle prod left on. The finishing move ‘Moonchanges’, has a droned backdrop with north Indian raga flavoured guitar lines dancing about, then the drums chuff along with a motorik beat. Established further into the track as the rhythm section shunts along accompanied by widely sprawling guitar and horn lines which then eventually brings the whole enigmatic express to a halt.

Sunwatchers are an act who definitely bring a much needed fresh perspective within the alternative rock genre. Their brand of improvisational music does hark back to an era of masterful sonic ingenuity, which on the initial sitting could overwhelm their audience, but with further delving it should open up a world of rewarding musical experiences.

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