Thursday 25 April 2024


Most of us inhabiting this underground rock community will have albums in our collections that come from a more languid and lysergic place, we are talking here bands like Sungrazer, Causa Sui, My Brother the Wind and of course Colour Haze, outfits that could, if the mood took them, get heavy but also had that expansive, almost cosmic, thing going on as well. What seems like an age ago Desert Psychlist came across a band who fitted the above criteria perfectly, a Norwegian combo going by the name Sunface who in 2016 released their debut album "Observatory", an album we called on these very pages a collection of "intriguing soundscapes that are sometimes a little bleak and disturbing but always interesting". We fervently hoped that "Observatory" was going to be the start of a whole slew of albums from the band as we were very interested in where they might take their music next. Unfortunately that did not happen and so we assumed that the band had fallen into that huge void that seems to swallow up so many bands. We assumed wrong, a few weeks ago we got a message from the band informing us that Sunface were, eight years later, about to release a new album, "Cloud Castles" (Apollon Records), and would we be interested in reviewing it, one listen to the attached stream and we were hooked and so to cut a long story short here's the review..

Sunface's debut "Observatory" featured a drummer however "Cloud Castles" does not, well not in the traditional rock sense, what we have here is Afro/Latin percussion played with hands rather than with sticks and the difference it makes to the bands sound is immense. The occasional bleakness found in the bands debut is still in place but those rhythms playing underneath add an air of upbeat brightness to the proceedings that was not so much lacking on the bands debut as just a little less prominent. Putting together guitars with traditional percussion is nothing very new in rock music, Santana made a career out of it as (to some extent) did Marc Bolan's T.Rex, but in music sitting at the underground end of the rock spectrum we cannot think of too many who have taken the same path. While we are on the subject of guitars we should tell you that the guitar tones to be found here are sublime, chord progressions, riffs, arpeggios and solo's are all delivered with the deftest of touches, on the albums heavier sections the guitar work resembling a quiet rather than a raging storm. The albums vocals are none too shabby either they serve as the perfect match to the guitar work, warm smooth and creamy tones that give songs like "Tall Trees". "Violet Ponds" and "Green Fields and Familiar Faces" a honeyed haziness not usually associated with music of a more stoner(ish) persuasion. It is however the Afro/Latin percussion that is the beating heart of "Cloud Castles" it does not just support the guitar work and the vocals it sits on an equal footing with them, the tribal flavoured percussive work is all over opening title track "Cloud Castles" and the song would not be the same without it, and the blistering power that this percussion delivers behind songs like "Thunder Era" and "...Through the Snow and Beyond" is as impactful as anything you might hear being laid down by a more traditional rock drummer sat behind a full kit.

If  you have a taste for the kind of lysergic heaviness supplied by those bands we mentioned in the opening piece of this review but wonder what that heavy hazy cosmicness might sound like backed by tribal percussion then Sunface's "Cloud Castles" is going to answer all your questions.
Check it out .... .

© 2024 Frazer Jones

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