You can make whatever sound comparisons or analogies you want, to my ears, the debut from Yawning Sons is principally two things. First: mesmerizing. Second: warm. The band is end result of a fortunate ocean-crossing collaboration between Californian desert rock legend Gary Arce of Yawning Man and the UK?s Sons of Alpha Centauri. Presumably they went with Yawning Sons because ?Arce & Sons? sounded too much like they were electricians. In any case, their debut, Ceremony to the Sunset, released by Australia?s Lexicon Devil, is seven cuts of mostly instrumental experimental post-rock psychedelic hypnosis, with guest vocal spots from Fatso Jetson?s Mario Lalli, Wendy Rae Fowler (Mark Lanegan Band) and Scott Reeder spread throughout to act as trail markers.
The story goes that Arce and the four-piece Sons of Alpha Centauri had never met before he flew to the UK to produce a record for them, but when he arrived they jammed and over the course of a week, wrote and recorded Ceremony to the Sunset instead. Not to say the narrative lacks plausibility (Arce himself recounts it in the liner notes), but if that?s how it went down, the chemistry between Arce and Sons of Alpha Centauri members Nick Hannon (bass), Marlon King (guitar), Stevie B. (drums) and Blake (textures) must have been immediate. Otherwise the project would?ve fallen flat entirely — or, more likely, it wouldn?t have happened in the first place — and the intricate melodies that permeate ?Tomahawk Watercress? and closer ?Japanese Garden? would have nowhere near as much power as they do. Ceremony to the Sunset is a patient album, but it feels fast, spontaneous and exciting, striking a rare balance.
Fowler?s vocal comes on opener ?Ghostship – Deadwater? and begins as a soothingly understated performance that reminds of Sondra Ow Sun-Odeon?s work in Silver Summit before the energy picks up and with building waves of psychedelic noise behind her she informs that her heart was lost at Wounded Knee. Of all places. Arce?s desert guitar blends perfectly into the music and his deeper tones offset some of the airier work of King. Through tracks like ?Wetlands? and the shorter, entirely ambient ?Whales in Tar,? one can probably guess which creative partner is taking the lead, but honestly, it?s way more fun to tilt your head back and be engulfed by the whole than it is to sit and parse through each and every change.
If Ceremony to the Sunset has a straightforward moment, it?s in ?Meadows,? in which Lalli puts his vocal over a far-out and repeating guitar line to affect a pastoral sweetness and longing like that of latter day Sonic Youth. The vocal highlight, however belongs to Reeder, whose innumerable layers sound like the waves he is describing in the lyrics, ?I?ll become/Waves on?/Waves on a distant shore,? in the song “Garden Sessions III.” Sure enough, his voice is the tide coming in and going out, and though with bongos underneath it?s probably the most active part of the album, the added progressive element of Reeder?s contribution is enough of a surprise to make it a genuinely special moment. Yawning Sons must have felt it too, because his are the only lines printed anywhere in the artwork, and they appear under the CD tray, waiting for their meaning to be discovered on first listen.
The art for Ceremony to the Sunset, it?s worth noting, comes with photography printed on gorgeous high-quality glossy paper and a booklet with not only pictures of landscapes, but the band as well. It?s an extra touch to make the visuals as engaging as the sound of the disc itself and give not only a feeling of reverence for the music, but of completeness to the experience. Ceremony to the Sunset is full, hopeful and a success on any level you?d like to measure. If Arce ever makes it back across the pond to do a follow-up, it won?t be soon enough.California, Desert Rock, Gary Arce, Lexicon Devil, psych, UK, Yawning Sons