A special Halloween release, the complete title of the latest from Sun Blood Stories is Samhain Variations: In Flight Raid Wake up I Don’t Know, and sure enough at the beginning of “Samhain Variation 1” (15:30), lap steel guitarist/vocalist Amber Pollard gives a cabin announcement welcoming listeners aboard “Trip Airlines Flight 666 bound to your brain” as she and guitarist Ben Kirby set out an immediately experimental-sounding foundation of plucked notes, feedback, drones and other noises. What follows from there — mind you that’s about the first 10 seconds — across “Samhain Variation I” and it loop-drum-infused counterpart “Samhain Variation II” (26:50) is a twisted barrage of alternately hypnotic and assaulting sounds, feeling like an exponential expansion of some of the ambient back end of summer-2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here) full-length, with which I remain enamored. The difference is that where those were smaller pieces that, at times, seemed to touch back down to solid footing reminding of the album’s more straightforward beginning movement, Samhain Variations is an ethereal wash that trades back and forth between melodic and amelodic, touching on the memorable “West the Sun” at the launch of “Samhain Variation II,” but ultimately shaping itself into an unrecognizable form. The second part is harsher than the first and substantially longer, but both reinforce the open creative process the band showed a couple months back on Live at the Banana Stand (posted here), and of course, on the album that preceded it. They remain a band to which more people need to get hip, and Samhain Variations is a flight worth taking. Sun Blood Stories on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Okay, so this one’s been out for a couple weeks. I’ll admit I stumbled on it yesterday while I was revisiting — yet again — the Bandcamp page of Idaho’s Sun Blood Stories to take another listen to their 2015 album, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), as I have throughout much of this summer while guilting myself for having not yet shelled out for the CD or tape version. There it was: Live from the Banana Stand. And it’s a name-your-price download, no less.
Recorded in Portland, Oregon at the Arrested Development-referencing venue named in its title (“Always money in the banana stand”), it’s got excellent versions of some of the tracks from Twilight Midnight Morning, and confirms for me the open sensibility that the album presented, more specifically the feeling that on any given night the songs might wind up someplace very different from where they started. Vibe all over the place.
Imagine driving through a sagebrush-spotted desert, the sun a red orb slowly retiring to the bleary-lined horizon. Radio frequencies barely breach the isolation, and the music that filters through is slow and visceral, haunting, pagan and mood-alteringly psychedelic.
This is the sound of “high desert ghost music,” the prescription followed by members of the Boise band Sun Blood Stories. A live performance by the group is more than just a set list, it’s a convergence of sound, sight and emotion in the tradition of the concept album.
“We’ve been told it’s like a modern day opera, which is kind of cool,” said Amber Pollard, who sings and plays slide guitar in the band.
Sun Blood Stories, Twilight Midnight Morning
In terms of dramatic power, sonic daring and pure pleasure, Twilight Midnight Morning (Obsolete Media Objects, 2015) leaves most so-called psychedelic albums of recent vintage in the dust. Hypnotic basslines and supple drumming flow with keening guitars, screeching viola, moaned vocals and a plethora of trippy noises. This may well be the best local release of the year.
Brand new album from Sun Blood Stories called Twilight Midnight Morning. This Idaho band have a sweet droney style of music. Sun Blood Stories craft a witchy concoction of brooding drone-rock. The opening track “Palace Mountain Mirage” opens the album with an excellent slide guitar riff that sets the mood for the rest of Twilight Midnight Morning. Tracks 4 (Witch Wind) and 6 (Night Tremor) have a more highly driven bass line that makes for more of a psychedelic-metal feel to it. My favorite track on the record is the finale “Misery is Nebulous.” Sun Blood Stories brings such great musicianship to this record, and it sounds amazing, so go listen to it and support independent artists.
At the moment in Sun Blood Stories‘ second full-length where it seems most likely that you finally have the album figured out — that’s when it turns. Twilight Midnight Morning, as a title, might well describe the varied moods of the release’s 10 tracks/50 minutes, but the actual front-to-back listening experience, from the count of three that seems to signal a dip into hypnosis to the fading guitar echoes that close, is more complex than a linear progression of hours, and experimental flourish of effects-laden viola from Judah Claffey, slide guitar, ambient feedback, drones, swirls, keys — whatever it might be — is never far off. There are stretches of Twilight Midnight Morning where the Boise, Idaho, five-piece revel in flat-out gorgeous post-rock melody-wash, as on the brooding contemplation of “Found Reasons Found Out,” with swirling guitar, dual vocal croon and a wide-open structure that, like much of the record, takes nothing away from its memorability or lessens the impression made.
It’s quite a journey, one which those who haven’t heard SBS lately might not expect. In a departure from the group’s earlier blues-heavy sound, Twilight’s eerie tunes, sinuous grooves and waves of voices, riffs and hallucinatory noises call to mind early Funkadelic andBitches Brew-era Miles Davis. Metal-centric music blog The Obelisk called Twilight “a gorgeous wash that careens between minimalist openness, dual vocals that capture folkish intent with zero folkish pretense and psychedelic guitar howl, all the while swirling with experimental undercurrents and ambient heft.”
Are you looking for some spacey, densely-layered primordial psychedelia to accompany you on those long nomadic journeys across the desert range on your trusty black stallion? I have just the music for you. It’s Sun Blood Stories, so named for the annual Boise phenomenon whereby the smoke of forest fires gets trapped in the valley and colors the sky pinkish-brown, transforming the low-setting sun to a eerie blood red orb. That seems quite fitting for an exotic pilgrimage where mystical melodies have invaded the mind and taken it on a mind-altering road trip. Along the way, ethereal, haunting and otherworldly voices weave in and out of these complex sonic hallucinations like long-lost entities looking for a home. Why not yours?
I gotta be honest with you. I don’t know much about Sun Blood Stories other than they’re from Boise, Idaho, and the upcoming Twilight Midnight Morning is their third album, but god damn, the vibe is absolutely slaughtering me right now. Headphones in, the 10-tracker is a gorgeous wash that careens between minimalist openness, dual vocals that capture folkish intent with zero folkish pretense and psychedelic guitar howl, all the while swirling with experimental undercurrents and ambient heft — a weight that doesn’t force itself on you but has enough presence to pull you along for sure.
Hey all you labels who pick up bands and put their stuff out on vinyl: If you’re reading this, you might want to pay attention. Meantime, I’m gonna go email Sun Blood Stories back and ask them if I can stream the whole record because that’s how much of it I think you should hear.