The new record from New York's Sunwatchers, II, out Friday on Trouble in Mind Records, is the sort of release that's darn hard to describe. Incorporating elements of drone rock, flashes of jazz fusion, and hints of near-prog with an almost No New York-aesthetic, the band unleashes torrents of noise and bits of skewed melody in a fashion that suggests both madness and a level of genius lacking in lots of what passes for truly alternative music these days.
A listener can find lots to latch onto in a track like "The Works", for instance, as the Can-like rhythmic hook drives things forward, even as free jazz sax skronks arrive at crucial points in the cut. Elsewhere, "The Hot Eye" rattles and percolates like the best material from The Magic Band, while the more straightforward "Silent Boogie" sees a sort of Sun Ra-like sense of abandon guide -- however loosely -- the players through the cosmos, horn-bursts and drum-blasts peppering the proceedings around the heavy, central riff of the tune. That the tune actually swings says a lot about why I loved II so much. And for all that, the band is still capable of truly getting out there, as the epic-length "There Are Weapons You Can Bring To School" shows, the band venturing into territory that suggests artists as diverse as Mingus and King Crimson.
The players in Sunwatchers -- Peter Nye Kerlin (bass), Jim McHugh (guitars, keyboards, harmonica, piano), Jason Robira (drums), and Jeff Tobias (sax, keyboards, etc.) -- deserve all the credit here for really challenging a listener while delivering something entirely listenable. Sunwatchers understand how to push the envelope even while finding a scarp of melody to toss our way in the midst of the stirring of the chaos. What is here is extreme but not obtuse or un-enjoyable. This is music that is bold and brave, but also music that remains easy to love for more adventurous listeners.
II is out on Friday via Trouble in Mind Records.
[Photo: Uncredited promo pic from label]