Californian psych rockers Sleepy Sun have enjoyed a turbulent ride since their formation seven years ago. Internal conflicts - or 'artistic differences' as they've come to be known - may have led to the departure of original members Hubert Guy and Rachel Fannan, yet that hasn't put paid to the prolific nature of their output.
While debut long player Embrace combined Nuggets-like garage rock with meandering effects-laden workouts, 2010's follow-up Fever established them as one of the growing psych scene's most exciting prospects. Even if the parting of ways with Fannan in particular set them back a little, 2012's Spine Hits drew a line in the sand. Acting as the now four-piece band's second coming - ground zero even - it focused more on song-based pieces rather than epic excursions into acid blues territory. Although it didn't have quite the same impact as its predecessors, the potential was there. Next would be the realisation...
Which brings us to album number four, Maui Tears. If the band's previous three records had a retrospective appeal, albeit in a futuristic kind of way, their latest collection definitely sounds of its time. With psychedelic rock becoming the emperor's new clothes, Sleepy Sun couldn't have picked a more opportune moment to reacquaint themselves. And in Maui Tears, they've conjured up an accomplished, diverse collection of songs that sets them apart from the assorted Black Angel Massacre wannabes popping up around every corner.
Nowadays essentially a vehicle for Bret Constantino to pit his wits as a lone frontman, Sleepy Sun pull it off for the most part here at any rate. Songs like 'The Lane' and 'Words' owe more in spirit to people like My Morning Jacket or Band Of Horses, albeit with an extra emphasis on sonic attack. It's on the dreamy six-minutes long 'Everywhere Waltz' that things really begin to take shape. Coming on like three amalgamated into one, its chameleonic approach switches in an instant from Mercury Rev style whimsy to feral metallic riffs before closing on an a capella breakdown featuring all four members. The word 'epic' doesn't do it justice.
'1132' takes a more aggressive approach than the rest of Maui Tears, not too dissimilar to fellow exponents of new psychedelia Cult Of Dom Keller. There are also traces of A Storm In Heaven-era Verve, not least in the spacier confines of 'Thielbar' and closing ten-and-a-half minutes long title track. Sometimes Maui Tears does lose focus a little. 'Slowdown' does what its title suggests and takes a mid-album breather, while 'Outside' meanders and veers between courses without choosing any particular mode or direction.
Nevertheless, Maui Tears is a distinct return to form and one that reaffirms Sleepy Sun as a genuine force to be reckoned with. Watch this space...
7Dom Gourlay's Score