For a while there, it was looking like Sungrazer were the future of fuzz. No shit. After I heard their Mirador album in 2011 (review here), I was all set and in fact did on several occasions count them as one of the brightest hopes in the European heavy psych scene, all the more so as they were brought forth with the endorsement of Elektrohasch Schallplatten, the imprint founded by Stefan Koglak of Colour Haze. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets, bassist/vocalist Sander Haagmans and drummer Hans Mulders released a split earlier in 2013 with like-minded Dutch trio The Machine (review here) to mark their “Strikes and Gutters” tour together, and then Sungrazer were supposed to play Duna Jam, and Smeets quit. That’s how it went. Here’s his post from Thee Facebooks on June 4:
After having played many years with Sungrazer with great joy I have come to the conclusion that there’s no more future in this band for me. That’s why I quit Sungrazer and so, unfortunately, I can’t come to DunaJam. I’m sorry about this and I want to thank you for the great moments we shared.
In the months that have followed, there hasn’t been much more said about it than that. Nothing, actually. It’s hard enough to replace any member of a trio without creating an entirely new group dynamic, so I guess Haagmans and Mulders decided without Smeets that was it. It was one of 2013′s biggest bummer breakups, and more so since after their future-classic 2010 self-titled debut (review here), Mirador had expanded their sound into even jammier, more naturalistic vibing, so that cuts like “Mirador” and “Sea” and “Behind” seemed to emerge from a glorious overarching wash of tonal warmth. The self-titled had that as well, and “Zero Zero,” “Common Believer,” “If,” “Somo” and “Mountain Dusk” were even more distinct on their own, so that as much as the record worked as a whole, individual songs flourished as well.
I was fortunate enough to see them twice, first at Roadburn 2011 and then again at London Desertfest 2012, and they’d only gotten better as a unit. It’s always strange to write about a band who’ve decided to hang it up, first because you never know if they’ll get back together, and second because no band breakup has ever proven to be the end of the world, but Sungrazer had a special sound that was increasingly their own, their songs had a character that was their own, and of all the heavy psych to come out of the European heavy underground over the last half-decade or so, theirs showed a quick mastery of creating a peaceful feel with heavy tones. Particularly after the split with The Machine, which brought forth three new tracks in “Dopo,” “Yo La Tengo” and the wonderfully atmospheric “Flow through a Good Story,” my hopes had been high for their third album. Everything seemed to be on track.
That was the real kicker of it — the surprise factor. Some breakups stick, some don’t. I’d hope Sungrazer‘s falls into the latter category, but it’s not something I’ll attempt to predict either way. Late in 2012, Haagmans released an EP under the moniker The Whims of the Great Magnet, and a full lineup of the band with him on guitar and vocals made its live debut on Dec. 19, 2013, in Maastricht. Smeets seems to be playing with the new outfit Cigale (though they haven’t posted an official lineup or band pics as of now), who just released their first audio teaser, and I’m not sure if Mulders has a new project going or has joined another band or what, but it’s hard to imagine a psychedelic drummer of his caliber won’t resurface somewhere down the line if he hasn’t.
And since the best case scenario for any disbanding is output from players’ new projects, at least there’s that to take comfort in, though Sungrazer left a considerable void when their wall of fuzz fell.
Sungrazer, “If” official video
Tags: Cigale, Elektrohasch Schallplatten, Maastricht, Sungrazer, The Netherlands, The Whims of the Great Magnet