If there is one thing we at Desert Psychlist love in our music it is a touch of off-centred quirkiness, music that is governed by all the usual rules but does not always strictly adhere to them. This off-piste approach is something we hear in the music of Ohio's Sun Dweller, a trio who utilize all the usual musical tools we associate with underground music of a stoner/desert/hard rock persuasion but have a sound unlike anyone else in the genre. Sun Dweller first appeared on Desert Psychlist's radar via their first album "The Big Sleep" a mightily impressive debut that highlighted a blend of stoner fuzz, bluesy swagger and grungy doom dynamics the like of which we had never heard before. The band, Seth Nulph (guitar/vocals); John Thompson (bass) and Ron Marsh (drums), return this year with a new album "High Ride" and it is just as off-centred, just as quirky and just as jaw-droppingly good, if not better, than the debut that proceeded it.
The unorthodox nature of Sun Dweller's musical attack is no more evident than on opening number "Self Medicate" a song that finds Nulph part singing, part speaking over a backdrop of gently picked guitar arpeggios and echoed vocal overdubs, the resulting combination giving the song a hazy Americana feel. Title track "High Ride" follows and finds Sun Dweller jamming a chugging proto-metallic groove spliced with some nice droning textures over which Nulph delivers his highly distinctive vocals, his voice big powerful and edged with a dark grittiness. Next track the stoner-ish "A New Peak" sees bassist Thompson and drummer Marsh laying down a solid bedrock of growling low end and busy rhythm for Nulph to decorate with choppy power chords, searing solos and, of course, those big vocals. "Philophobia" channels a little UFO/Thin Lizzy in its sonic make-up but then confuses things by going all down tuned and doomic in its final quarter while "Again" finds things getting a little torch-like and bluesy but in a way only this band could pull off. Sun Dweller take a breather from original material for the albums next song and jump headlong into a cover of Pink Floyd's "Eclipse" and although only an abridged version they still manage to make a pretty good fist of it. "No One Here" ramps up the quirkiness quota by jumping from its initial, in your face, stoner rock groove into a brief rock'n'roll flavoured section only to then return to planet stoner for its finale. Final track "Cincinnati Weed Wagon" utilizes all of Sun Dweller's various influences and musical inspirations to build a song that teeters on the edge of the doom pool but, due to the idiosyncratic nature of this bands music, never dives fully in yet still manages to sound deliciously dank and dark.
"High Ride" is not an album for those who like their stoner and hard rock straight-forward and basic but for those who like their fuzz delivered a little skewered and leaning slightly off the beaten path Sun Dweller could well become your new favourite band.
Check 'em out ...
© 2023 Frazer Jones