On Wax: Yawning Sons, Ceremony to the Sunset

yawning-sons-ceremony-to-the-sunset-cover-and-lp

Oh, I love this album. I really do. Quite frankly, I consider it a treat to even be writing about it again. From Wendy Rae Fowler singing about how she lost her heart at Wounded Knee on “Ghostship – Deadwater” to Mario Lalli stepping in for a croon on “Meadows,” the instrumental depth brought to “Tomahawk Watercress” and “Wetlands” by Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce and UK atmospheric heavy rockers Sons of Alpha Centauri, and Scott Reeder‘s layered harmonies on “Garden Sessions III” — the echoes of “waves on a distant shore” feature in my mental jukebox regularly — Yawning Sons‘ 2009 debut, Ceremony to the Sunset (review here), is among the most beautiful executions of heavy psychedelia I’ve ever heard. And the only reason I call it a “debut” instead of “only album” — they also have a split out with WaterWays, another Arce-inclusive project — is because no small part of me is still hoping for a follow-up at some point even six years later. It’s not impossible. This is an album that has kept me warm in winter, has soundtracked summer nights and has come with me on every significant bit of travel I’ve undertaken since its release. I think of it as an “airplane” album, because if I’m going to crash out of the sky and fall 35,000 feet to my demise, it’s I want to have the chance to be listening to it as I go down. No bullshit.

yawning-sons-ceremony-to-the-sunset-front-coverAlone Records has seen fit to reissue Ceremony to the Sunset, giving the album its first vinyl release after the original CD version came out via Cobraside in the US and Lexicon Devil in Australia. The pressing is 500 copies in translucent red, orange or yellow (I got yellow and it doesn’t look like it lets light through in the pics above because of the white background, but it does). It comes in a gatefold with a reworked cover no less suited to the spaciousness conjured throughout the record by Arce and Sons of Alpha Centauri — the lineup of guitarist Marlon King, bassist Nick Hannon, texturist Blake and drummer Stevie B. is the same now as it was then — and it’s even more distinguished from the original offering by the inclusion of closer “Shores of Desolation,” an instrumental added to the back of side B that was tracked during the initial sessions in the UK and never released. While Alone pretty much had me at the word “go” on a reissue for Ceremony to the Sunset, I will say that the chance to hear a piece of music yet-unissued from this collaboration added significant appeal to the thought of giving the record a revisit. And no regrets. Blake must feature heavily on a song so textured, and sweet-toned guitar feedback is used to bring out further waves of melody before a final fadeout and back in and back out ends the new version of the album on a contemplative, sans-drums note following the bounce of “Japanese Garden.” Somewhat similar to “Whales in Tar,” but with a more foreboding undertone.

Since I usually put on Ceremony to the Sunset for a front-to-back listen, the vinyl does change the dynamic with two sides, and in that, “Shores of Desolation” serves a secondary function in evening out the halves. I hadn’t thought of “Meadows” as an opener,yawning-sons-ceremony-to-the-sunset-gatefold but it works well to start off side B after the flip, regrounding the proceedings after the three instrumentals “Tomahawk Watercress,” “Wetlands” and “Whales in Tar” appear in succession following album-opener “Ghostship – Deadwater” on side A. That track and “Tomahawk Watercress” continue to provide a tonal bliss that is largely unmatched in desert rock, Arce and King weaving guitar lines around each other while Hannon‘s bass and Stevie‘s drums give them a foundation on which to play out the memorable progression, descending and wistful. “Wetlands” brings the drums more forward, as does “Japanese Garden,” Yawning Sons‘ original closer, and like “Ghostship – Deadwater” and “Meadows” mirror each other as eight-minute side-starters, so too do “Whales in Tar” and “Shores of Desolation” work in conversation to end each half. I’ll make no attempt to hide my appreciation for Reeder‘s vocals on “Garden Sessions III,” but the guitar movement he tops is accordingly lush and open-spaced, relieving the almost-tense buildup that follows Lalli‘s guest spot on “Meadows.” Even with the rush of underlying percussion, it is a song to drift away by, and Reeder‘s voice is the tidal pull that carries you off. A one-man Beach Boys. Brilliant.

Granted I’m hardly impartial, but I can’t imagine that if you haven’t heard Ceremony to the Sunset before that the vinyl edition of it won’t grab you with its atmospherics and hooks both vocal an instrumental. In the history of desert rock, it’s probably a footnote, but for me it’s a landmark and an album that I’ve spent six years with at this point and found only a richer experience as time has passed. If Alone‘s reissue gets more people to hear it, or if those who appreciated it before have another excuse to take it on again and hear it in a different way, then all the better. Maybe one of these days Arce and Sons of Alpha Centauri can get together again and make a follow-up. Here’s hoping.

Yawning Sons, “Shores of Desolation”

Yawning Sons on Thee Facebooks

Sons of Alpha Centauri on Thee Facebooks

Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks

Alone Records

Tags: , , , , ,

5 Responses to “On Wax: Yawning Sons, Ceremony to the Sunset

  1. Jaxx says:

    Do you know where I can find the lyrics to Ghostship-Deadwater. I’ve looked but can’t find them. Great review on this album. I can’t get enough of it. So good.

  2. Sander says:

    I got an orange pressing of this in the post last week. I had never heard of this release before but I love it. It’s extremely mesmerising.

  3. […] search tells me it’s a classic in the desert rock scene though, or at least there are people at The Obelisk and The Sleeping Shaman and other similar music websites who claim it should be labelled a classic, […]

Leave a Reply