In the time since releasing their 2013 demo/EP, Mecca (review here), Orange County, New York, heavy psych rockers Sun Voyager have been more or less engaged in the business of growing their band. They’ve played local shows, done some time on the road, found a label to help push their stuff in the form of King Pizza Records, appeared on a compilation or two, and done a split release, with Greasy Hearts. Along the way, they’ve also released singles in drips and drabs, one song at a time every so often, capturing different moods and vibes still within the warm sphere of what they did so well on Mecca, but showing progress anyhow in fuzzy cuts like “Gypsy Hill” and “God is Dead.” Their new cassette, called Lazy Daze after its closing track and released by King Pizza in limited numbers (250 copies, white tape, pro case and j-card), brings together these singles and turns them into Sun Voyager‘s most established release to-date. It’s five songs from the earthy heavygaze rockers and only about 20 minutes between the two sides, but big on vibe and a right-on showing of increased complexity in their craft.
Definitely an EP for its runtime, Lazy Daze nonetheless houses an album-style flow, and while its title and some of Sun Voyager‘s shoegaze aesthetic hint toward an element of ’90s apathy — of “fuckit” made flesh — the weight of their tones and swing counteract with movement that’s exciting even in the overarching languid atmosphere of the tracks themselves. “God is Dead” is a landmark for the band. A familiar refrain, perhaps, but the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Carlos Francisco, guitarist Steve Friedman, bassist Stefan Mersch and drummer Kyle Beach make it their own, turning “My god is dead but your god’s dead too” into a killer hook for the upbeat first half of the song and an echoing space-out over the fluid, slower jamming of the second. The song lurches to a drawling finish like a universe stretching itself into oblivion, and “Black Angel” picks up quickly with a garage-style rush that Francisco tops with reverb-soaked melody and a molten vibe that is quickly becoming a trademark of their approach. Unlike the opener, “Black Angel” holds its space-rocking motor for its entirety, so it seems only fair that “Gypsy Hill” would slow things down, and it does, but more than that, it opens wide a horizon soundscape, sunny and rural as were the best moments of Mecca — its central progression reminds a bit of “Space Queen” from that release; not a complaint — but more coherent in the songwriting and assured in its course. They weave into and out of jammy grooves, but its the nodding chorus that makes “Gypsy Hill” the highlight that it is as it rounds out side one.
Launching side two, “Be Here Now” would seem to signal a change in vibe, but it’s really just a progression from where “Gypsy Hill” was headed, that song a transitional centerpiece between the two sides of the EP. A sleepy flow and peaceful atmosphere can make it easy to look past how heavy “Be Here Now” actually is when it picks up, but Sun Voyager shift so easily between louder and quieter parts that by the time the four minutes are up, you’re just absolutely lost in it. All the better leading into “Lazy Daze” itself, which earns the title-track spot with its more accomplished melody and memorable roll. Backing “ooh” vocals behind Francisco add flourish to the verse and choruses, and what works best about Lazy Daze overall is once more underlined, and that’s that even when Sun Voyager are using straightforward structures — all of these songs are shorter and have fewer actual jams than the tracks on Mecca — they’re able to maintain hypnotic listener engagement even as they weave through different songwriting ideas. I won’t at all say I hope they never kick out a full-on jam again, if only because I don’t think they’re at a point where any element of their approach should be written off entirely, but the balance they strike on Lazy Daze of approach-tightness and sonic-looseness makes the 20 minutes of the EP’s span seem much, much wider, and really makes me look forward to hearing what kinds of shifts Sun Voyager might be able to pull off over the course of a debut full-length. I think they could give it a shot at this point, and I hope they find room to branch out a bit in terms of arrangements, maybe put an organ in there somewhere for one or two songs, some acoustics or additional percussion. Because if Lazy Daze proves anything, it’s that Sun Voyager have their sound as it is down pat and are ready to move forward from here.