A few weeks ago my band, shalloboi, played a set at the Burlington with Names Divine and a band from Philadelphia called Son Step who were all over the map musically. One minute they’d be playing something gauzy and blissed-out with some spacy harmonies and the next they’d launch into a dual drummer shuffle that would call a jazz-tinged band like Tortoise to mind. While I was packing up our equipment the keyboardist/drummer/singer Jon gave me his solo CD ‘Night Cycles’ mentioning that he had read some of the writing on my blog and thought I might enjoy it. He mentioned Spectrum as a parallel and, naturally, I said I’d give it a listen.
‘Night Cycles’ starts off as a reverb-drenched and hazy set of songs built on some interestingly layered rhythmic loops. While Spectrum is a good jumping off point I’d also like to note that while listening to this CD repeatedly it got me started on a pretty intense Sun Araw kick. I’d be inclined to say that Coyle mixes jazz into his dreamy psychedelic ambience in a similar way to how Cameron Stallone mixes reggae into his psychedelic experimentalism. Perhaps it’s the creepy gurgles and whistles that start the extremely stark ‘Shot in the Dark’ that got me thinking about Sun Araw. The songs are arranged as more straightforward mood pieces than Son Step’s more schizophrenic indie pop. It wasn’t much of a stretch when I read on the band’s blog that they were taking a few of these songs and kicking them around in a full band setting. It made a great deal about them make more sense to me as while I was watching them I was finding it hard to keep up with all of the twists and turns. ‘I Got Mine’ has a lyrical figure that repeats and builds as the track continues building on some nice close harmonies and overlaps that increase the track’s hypnotic nature. The title track repeats a simple phrase over and over again throughout the course of the track turning the vocals, the evolving harmonies and the vocal phrasings into instruments of their own. Things stay on the more drifting, ambient side throughout the first half suddenly snapping to life with the incredibly driving ‘Hear Myself’ which is the track on here that I would say most resembles Son Step.
This record works best as headphones music (another similarity to Sun Araw). I really enjoy the production on this record in particular—I can’t tell if it was recorded digitally or what, but the reverbs are nice and organic and range from incredibly dense to light. The layers of gritty loops and samples are particularly effective in keeping the palette of sounds lush and diverse as are the effects-laden keyboards. Most people would’ve gone with a cleaner and clearer sound for fear of getting the dreadful ‘lo-fi’ tag, but this record embraces its grittiness and uses it to enhance the overall mood to great effect making the moments when the reverb is stripped back all the more effective.
During Son Step’s stop in town they recorded a session at WNUR in Evanston, and that can be listened to/downloaded here- http://marconi.soc.northwestern.edu/airplay/?p=1871