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Sleepy Sun are one of those bands that has chosen a name that perfectly describes their sound. They conjure up songs that are hazy and shimmering with the glow of long sunny days. They can also lull one to sleep with sweet and swaying tunes that drift into folk territory.
Embrace is the debut album for the Californian sextet and sees them part of the burgeoning psych rock scene centred around San Francisco. It just isn’t a sound that would feel right coming out of New York. Sleepy Sun have toured with Entrance, Howlin’ Rain and Dead Meadow, all bands that employ the same mix of folk and a particular type of blues-based boogie that has its roots in garage and psychedelic prog rock from the 70s.
Opening track ‘New Age’ sees the twin vocals of Rachael Williams and Bret Constantino setting the scene for much of the singing style on the album. They either sing together or as in the closing track ‘Duet With The Northern Sky’, they alternate lines in a call and response manner. Constantino possesses a high voice that can sound dreamy or wired while Williams is the grounded sweet contrast that adds a folky feel to their music.
Fans of Black Mountain will find much to like here with Sleepy Sun sitting somewhere between Stephen McBean’s heavier act and his other trippier sounding Pink Mountaintops. All of these acts like to mix up their influences and shift between soothing and shocking their audience. Either way it is an invigorating, albeit retro experience.
The heavier side of Sleepy Sun first appears in the fuzzed out bass of ‘Red/Black’ that changes time signatures and sends the level into the red with its monster riff. A few tracks later the centrepiece of the album, ‘White Dove’, does the same again but this time it is only one part of the nine minute song that shifts from a huge swaying stoner groove to a Pink Floyd-esque meander before again building up into the wall of guitar buzz. The track culminates in a passage of imploding distortion which crumbles away to reveal a sweet after-thought melody of strummed guitars and harmonica that gently ushers us toward the exit.
Sleepy Sun have produced a fine debut record that balances the extremes of its content well. Some bands like Comets On Fire can become tiresome at time with their endless soloing, while others wallow in the grassy folk-isms and don’t deliver some energy and action in their songs. Sleepy Sun have done well and live one suspects they would sound even better. Like the title of their album they have embraced their influences and the result is a warming experience.