Posts Tagged ‘Sunwatchers’

Peter Kerlin

I’ve not been shy about my love of Sunwatchers around here, but the band itself is so full of accomplished players that their coming together is only like trying to watch the brightest suns converge before blazing out in a blast of energy. So its only natural that when the members stray solo, that’s worth noting. Bassist Peter Kerlin has cropped up here a few times already this year, not only with Sunwatchers on two releases but also with Brigid Dawson and Bent Arcana. His playing always lends a supple vision to a release and his solo tape Glaring Omission puts him squarely in front. The pieces here show Kerlin working through mastering the eight string bass while overcoming the loss of a friend and the latter component hangs over the pieces in a tumult of emotions and timbres. The cassette’s instrumental passages aren’t quite as turbulent as his work with either Arcana or the Watchers but there’s a subtle internal struggle threaded through the quiet tension of the works here.

Casting in a lovely mix of players including his fellow Solar Motel member Ryan Jewell and Brent Cordero (Psychic Ills, Mike Wexler), the album hardly seems like a tangent from Kerlin’s usual output. The album touches on jazz, kosmiche, and a somber strain of post-rock that’s sublimated into a gaseous haze threaded through a maze of rhythm that sees Jewell and Kerlin shouldering the pulse of the project. Loss, confusion, reclamation and resolve all play out of the six tracks here and Kerlin once again asserts himself as one of the best in the business, whether he’s at the helm or enmeshed in the ensemble.





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Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network – “Is The Season For New Incantations”

Among the picks on my Best of 2020 (so far) list last week was the smoldering debut from Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network. The LP showcases the Oh Sees member front and center, crafting a hybrid of lounge, darkened shadow caster psych, and jazz scars with the help of Sunwatchers, Mikey Young, Shayde Sartin, Mike Donovan, and a few other friends with likeminded leanings. The album opener is a dark patch of sky that heralds ominous clouds and turbulent waters ahead. She’s paired the track here with a prog-tipped video that’s flipping through Roger Dean landscapes and etched with runic signatures of unfathomable meaning. Though perhaps director Arturo Baston can better surmise. He cites inspiration “from alchemist transmutation circles to meditative sacred geometry. Mystic, occult, and spiritual graphic devices adapted and mixed all together to illustrate the relation between the forces of nature and the stupid human lust for power.” If you’ve yet to let this one grace your ears, I’d recommend setting that right soon. The vinyl arrives mid-July.

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Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network

It feels like this album from Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network has been sorely overlooked in the lead-up to its release. Its a damn shame because the ex-Oh See has put together an album that pushes her range far beyond the garage and psych roots attached to her. Within Oh Sees Dawson always provided the light to the rest of the band’s brooding dark — washing in areas of harmony and humility to the band’s rhythmic furor or blood-spattered psychedelics. On Ballet of Apes she’s filtering through the frames of folk and jazz, lounge and a hopeful strain of soul. Her songs crouch and coo, then open wide and soar. The album is bruised but resilient and its some of her best work in any context.

As for those lumped into her Mothers Network, Dawson has assembled a rather enviable crew. The backing musicians range far and wide, picking up friends from New York, San Francisco, and Melbourne. The Mothers Network are at any time Mikey Young (Total Control/Eddy Current Suppression Ring), Mike Donovan (Sic Alps), Shayde Sartin (Fresh & Onlys, Flying Canyon), Mike Shoun (Oh Sees, Peacers). Then as the album slides into its latter half Dawson pairs with RSTB faves Sunwatchers for a bout of jazz smolder that slips beyond the veil of light and into a space that’s inhabited by smoke and smudged by hot coal chemical interactions. The band and Dawson make a particularly potent pair and here’s hoping that they might make it more of a regular occurrence. Highly recommend digging further into this one again and again.




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Sunwatchers

Sunwatchers continue their devastating streak of the past few years with an album that becomes the balm and the irritant. Oh Yeah? (a delightful pun on their Cool Brave mascot there) is a reflection of turbulent times and the scream into the ether in which to deal with them all at once. While blunt lyricism has its place, there’s also just as overt a necessity for an album that captures the dozens of daily, weekly, and monthly moments of frustration and repels them with a sonic squall that’s caustic and complete. If our current moment has taught us anything it’s that we’re so often at a loss for words these days that the emotional behemoth of 2020 could only benefit from the rhythmic riot and tectonic fury of Sunwatchers. We can only feel truly alive after the baptism of McHugh’s sunstroke riffs and Tobias’ fevered runs. We can begin to live a little lost in the insistent throb of bass and drums flung far into the trance of abandon.

The band leaves melted tire tracks on the crossroads of psych and jazz — never entirely letting themselves choose a single path. The interplay between the members is symbiotic and psychic. They barrel through the barriers like Pharaoh sitting in with Earthless and then push it through the heart of the sun. Much like the block party burndown happening across the Atlantic in Mythic Sunship, Sunwatchers are smelting liquid chaos and tilting the kettle over the agencies that seek to stifle us all in this age of horrors. Riffs lock in and settle into a layer of hypnotism before they’re torn apart from the DNA on down. The band is, as ever, a socio-political powerhouse with a sense of humor, just the kind of talismans we need in an age when we’d be content to yell into the void, if the void hadn’t come home to stay. This one will shake up your year, so grab a helmet and head on in.



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Sunwatchers – “Brave Rats”

Seems that not only is the world being blessed with a new Sunwatchers full length in April, but now news comes down from Amish Records that a follow-up EP will surface in May as well. The EP is a bit of Odds and Sodds, led by new song “Brave Rats.” The title track comes down hard with synth layers that squeal, tumble down rhythms, a second-degree sax burn, and plenty of other aural chaos inspired by rats in a grease-induced frenzy in Williamsburg. They round out the EP with a Sonny Sharrock cover recorded in 2015, as one of their first studio sessions, an alternate version of “Everybody Play” from last year’s Illegal Moves, another early cut from that 2015 session and a live version of their Alice Coltrane cover, “Ptah, The El Daoud” recorded at Baby’s All Right. Looks like Oh Yeah? just got itself a necessary companion piece right here.



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Sunwatchers – “Sunwatchers vs. Tooth Decay”

After a damn near perfect run of jazz-psych barrel-rolls over the last few years, Sunwatchers are set to sear their name into the scrolls with Oh Yeah?. The title seems like both a question of incredulity (which is apt given the world climate of the past few years) and a statement of challenge. If it’s indeed a challenge, then Sunwatchers are more than up to it. They open the track with the flamethrower force of brass and then lockdown the rhythmic fire. The band’s socio-political agenda has long been tied into their ethos and the aura that surrounds them, though they match it with a winking humor that leads them to adopt the Kool-Aid man as a personal talisman and inspires them to tag their album opener with a sly reference to Muhammed Ali sparring with cavities in the ‘70s. Where they truly excel is at funneling their frustration into a porridge-thick ballast of rhythm and riff holding onto tumultuous psychedelia, burning the doubting hearts of anyone close to crossing them. Don’t let the in-jokes fool you. The band doesn’t come to play lightly. Oh Yeah? lands on Trouble in Mind.

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RSTB Best of 2019

2019’s drawing to a close, so I suppose this is the place to tie it all up. I’ve mentioned in years past that ‘best’ is a hard line to draw around the music from the year. From a blog perspective ‘favorite’ seems more appropriate, but then for all intents and purposes my choices are qualitatively the best to me, if not necessarily quantitatively best in the sense of the zeitgeist. The drive to figure out what’s best seems to just consolidate consensus and we’re all treated to dozens of lists that cross over with each other, especially in the top spots. I’ve long been a proponent of niche. I say long live finding your voice and letting others find theirs – we can all compare notes and discover new music in the process. I don’t need anyone to sand the edges and offer up a list that’s all inclusive. I like the edges. These are my favorites from a great year, edges and all.

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Modern Nature – “Footsteps”

Jack Cooper’s dizzying new band Modern Nature has let slip a few listens to their upcoming eponymous LP and now they give a visual representation of the nervous energy that drives the band’s sound. The Jake McGowan directed video shows Cooper pacing around the city, backgrounds spinning, flipping, and blurring in disorienting fashion to the beat. While much of the album embraces a pastoral creep into Krautrock’s camp, “Footsteps” is pure motorik mayhem. The songs locks down into a Neu-nicked groove and slashes at the panic with stabs of sax from Sunwatchers’ Jeff Tobias. Fans of Coo[ers’ Mazes should find a bit to chew on here, but in general Modern Nature is a singularly engrossing entity from Cooper’s musical universe. I’ve said before, I’m sad Ultimate Painting had to go, but if Modern Nature is the result of the fallout, its not all ashes left behind. The record is out on Bella Union August 30th.



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Best of 2019 (so far)

It’s been a hell of a year so far and now it’s time to run down the albums that have stuck around the turntable the longest. For all the fraught emotions and everyday injustices, there’s still some bright spot of solace in music. That’s not a trade-off, but its something to keep you going. As usual, these are the best records that filter through the Raven aesthetic. I’ll be off next week on vacation so this 30-spot plus the ensuing two and a half hour mix will have to hold you for a week. Gonna take a break until the 2nd week of July. The second half of the year already has a few front runners, so enjoy these gems before the tail end of 2019 comes running atcha.

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Modern Nature

Following the unfortunate fallout from Ultimate Painting’s implosion, the band’s Jack Cooper heads inward, which is saying something. His previous outfit had a particular proclivity for introverted indie-pop that felt like it carved a distinct connection with each and every listener. While he’s shying away from the pop aspect of his writing, that core connection and folk formulation remains on Nature. The EP, built on the cavern coolness of purred vocals and bubbling cosmic grooves, gives his work a psychedelic tweak, but its the work of someone spiraling down the depths of the unconscious coil rather than exploring the etchings in the dayglo painted stars above. He’s assembled a crack team to pull off his new vision as well, pulling in members of Woods, Herbcraft, Sunwatchers, and Beak on these four engrossing tracks.

While the propulsion of the title track begs Neu-nerds to come out of the woodwork, the track is self-professed in its allusions to the more experimental bend of ’69 Fairport Convention (in particular “A Sailor’s Life”) and the trend of bucolic English psych-folk toward the creep of drone’s embrace becomes a touchstone for the album. The opening and closing tracks are different visions of the same oasis, with “Supernature” taking the listener much further into the catacombs of consciousness. Elsewhere Cooper explores the sun-licked peace of acoustic thrum on “Flats,” and throws in a cover of the perennially inspiring “Blackwaterside” folk-tale, skipping just Ren Faire aesthetics that lesser artist can cave to and finding the meditative beauty that Jansch and Denny brought to the traditional piece.

Cooper seems to admit that this EP came out of something beyond him, and whether it becomes the beginning of something longer term or just a watershed to tide him through the transition remains to be seen. I’m hoping that he continues down this road, though. The experimental folk badge looks good on him and should the band begin rotating in talent like those assembled so far, it could be a great new chapter in Cooper’s pop cannon.

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