There’s a scene in some old documentary about Jimi Hendrix where they’re talking about his gargantuan drug intake. Apparently when he was told that a single microdot of acid would probably be enough, he’d just go right ahead a squirt an entire dropper full of LSD on to his tongue. Quite what the world looked like to Jimi Hendrix most of the time is anyone’s guess, but it must have been pretty weird and trippy all day, every day.
Sleepy Sun sound as if they might well have “accidentally” knocked back a few bottles of the good stuff because what we have here is one trippy piece of work. There are hints of influences all over the place, the most obvious ones being Black Sabbath, West Coast ’60s junkie pop filtered through San Franciscan hippy folk, a dollop of prog and a hint of The Velvet Underground. The one constant however is the feeling that this record was written in a fog of good vibes and a haze of sound that appeared before the performers as colours.
Of course, we’ve heard all of this kind of thing before, repackaged as shoegaze and then re-re-packaged as shoegaze again. But sometimes shoegaze bands miss the mark by a mile, relying too heavily upon a rack of effects and an effete singer that you can’t really hear. Sleepy Sun seem more than capable of creating that blissful feeling without any particular need to resort to effects.
What they do just seems so effortless. Second track Lord is built around a slowly smouldering piano line and envelops the listener, taking them on a trip that only a fool would resist. With soaring guitar lines calling out like lonely birds lost in the clouds, and a softly delivered vocal, it’s the closest they get to being a country band. If good ole boys ever played prog rock, that is.
Where Sleepy Sun are at their best is when they are channeling the spirits of a bygone age. The rolling toms and thundering bass of New Age introduce the band who then promptly set about rattling fillings from teeth. For those of you who miss Kyuss, particularly from around the Sky Valley period, you would do well to check this song out. It may lack the guitars you hunger for, but that bass rolls and rumbles like a rhino in a barrel.
The band’s dual vocals are perfectly explored in the frankly awesome Sleepy Son, a song that begins in the haze of a dream and quickly turns into a rock behemoth. Hit the mid-point and Rachel Williams’ voice takes on an almost Robert Plant-esque quality, while the band morph into Hendrix at his most outré as they jam on the guitar lick from Manic Depression. The band flips back and forth from solid rock grooves to passages of contemplation, giving the whole thing a bizarrely pleasurable if schizophrenic feel.
The nine-minute plus White Dove is another stormer taking the baggy funk of The Stone Roses on a trip around Stonehenge and sacrificing them on the altar of fuzzed up metal. Once again the multiple personalities of the band are to the fore. Just as you’ve settled into the buzzing funk guitars they break into a something ethereal and calm things down a little. The peace is shattered when a deranged blues solo hurtles across the horizon causing the drums to career off on a seemingly random explosion. Eventually the whole thing collapses into a sing-song gentle enough to soothe a rampant hangover. It’s nine minutes of perfection, and worth checking out on its own.
This kind of blissed out prog-rock is hard to do well without sounding derivative or lazy. It’s also hard to write nine-minute tunes that hold the attention of the listener on repeated listens. Yet Sleepy Sun have managed to come up with an album that is beautifully entrancing, and doesn’t encourage the listener to go to sleep before the mid point. Embrace is crammed with ideas, influences, and phenomenal musicianship. All aboard the space-rock space-ship.