Despite being in their early 20s, the six members of Sleepy Sun play heavy psych as if they’ve done so for centuries. Formed in Santa Cruz amid long jam sessions and a love of the outdoors, the band relocated to San Francisco and recorded this remarkably assured debut in Vancouver early last year. It may have taken a while to come out, but it’s all too fitting that Embrace wind up on the house label of All Tomorrow’s Parties, throwers of the world’s heaviest, headiest music festivals.
Things unfold with the saturated sprawl of “New Age,” which balances marauding riffs with pregnant pauses and entrancing percussion. That dichotomy is central to this band’s appeal, and from there, Sleepy Sun opt for soulful, piano-tickled sweetness on “Lord,” somewhat-stereotypical psych maneuvering on “Red/Black,” comet-like guitar leads on “Sleepy Son,” and an equally mystical and medieval vibe on “Golden Artifact.”
Vigorously backed by guitarists Evan Reiss and Matt Holliman, the rest of the band—drummer Brian Tice, bassist Jack Allen, and singers Rachel Williams and Brett Constantino—are free to traipse about in search of the right approach. We hear them more clearly on the final three songs, when the record opens up and things get truly interesting. At more than nine minutes long, “White Dove” builds to a thunderous pitch, only to strip back to hand percussion, soft singing and harmonies, plaintive picking, and wobbly harmonica. “Snow Goddess” opens as heavily treated pop, then explodes into bleary, bucking rock, and the closing “Duet With the Northern Sky” is just that: a sleepy boy/girl ditty with minimal backing.
Though the heavier moments are satisfying, Sleepy Sun are at their best when escaping the stranglehold of rolling, effects-heavy psych, instead simply exploring the vast open spaces between whisper-quiet and locomotive-loud.
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