Sleepy Sun follow in the line of recent musical luminaries to break free from the parochial mystique of Santa Cruz in the last decade, including Comets On Fire, Devil Makes Three and Mammatus. Now San Francisco-based, they here present eight tracks of breathtaking psychedelic and acoustic rock, demonstrating wilful nostalgia within magnificent folds of guitar noise.
Opener ‘New Age’ reverberates with distended Neil Young-inspired handiwork, a self-confessed major influence for the band, which then fades into the lilting, laid-back piano balladry of ‘Lord’. The subtle soulfulness of these quieter moments is offset by the ominous bite of grinding, distorted riffs in ‘Red/Black’ or ‘White Dove’.
Two years in the making, ‘Embrace’ explores an informed musical territory rooted in the ‘60s psychedelic rock and roll of Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Rolling Stones, through the space rock of Spaceman 3 and The Telescopes in the ‘80s, to this hybrid genre’s most recent incarnation as purported by Women or Wooden Shjips. While Sleepy Sun are acolytes of vocally obscured and instrumentally distorted jamming, ‘Embrace’ is an exercise in measured lysergic abstraction, eschewing self-indulgence at every turn, yet lazily stretching melodies into distended tracks that frequently surpass the five-minute mark.
At its sleepiest, as on ‘Golden Artifact’, ‘Embrace’ is underpinned by swirling Americana that drifts delightfully, saturated in reverb that hangs off bass guitar flourishes; the refrain of “this is where the sun will rise” lyrically characterises the unhurried, swirling layers of sound. But narcoleptics beware: the fierce and distorted riffs of ‘White Dove’, with skittering high-hat and propulsive pedal effects, dispel any notion that this is an album resting on hazy inertia.
If anything, ‘Embrace’ bears the hallmarks of an album reworked and rethought over a long period of time. Subsequently, there are moments where a little rawness wouldn’t go amiss, but based on this showing their live shows are sure to be cataclysmic, stripped of the production that makes this album so slick and cohesive. Closer ‘Duet With The Northern Sky’, with its male-female dual vocals and acoustic simplicity, demonstrates that this is an outfit capable of holding their own with only the most fundamental of instrumentation.
Sleepy Sun have triumphed in concocting a modernistic vision of west coast musicality: equal parts mindless filth and intelligent, song-centric cohesion. A stunning debut.
Words: Hazel Sheffield