Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ain Soph: Sungod's First Matter

First Matter has been out quite a while now, so we decided to upload it to our bandcamp. You can listen to the entire LP or download it in just about any format possible. Much more coming to this space in the future including Sungod SXSW performances, line-up additions, and information about a new, very limited and lovingly hand made cassette release containing our finest material yet.

Here are two reviews. I believe there are still copies here are there around the net and we have some as well. Most importantly: 

     Somewhere, at some point in time, somebody gave one of the two members of Austin, Texas, psychedelic newcomers Sungod a copy of Nebula’s To the Center, and it’s a good thing they did. The duo (doesn’t anyone have a bassist anymore?) have taken this heavy, grooving influence and stretched it out as far as it’ll go, abandoning for the most part the aforementioned band’s penchant for catchy choruses in favor of wide-breadth atmospherics on theirCyclopean Records debut, First Matter. The album’s five tracks follow a reverse-parabola structure, starting long, getting shorter in the middle, then longer again at the finish, but there’s more to the flow than nifty toying around with the track list. Sungod worship at a number of altars and their sound — in no small part thanks to liberal guitar layering — is surprisingly full for an act without a full-time bassist.
     Comprised of string-section Balentine and drummer Sharp, Sungod traffic in a heady, open-spaced instrumental heavy psych, marked by guitar passages so lyrical I had to go back and double check there weren’t vocals on them. Nine-minute opener “The Key is No Key” starts with striking feedback and hard-pounding rhythms. Balentine takes this as a basis for layering reverbed guitar explorations, but keeps a solid foundation underneath. Sharp’s playing is strong whether during these freakout jams or the more straightforward intervals from which they’re birthed, and on the acoustic-led “Under the Golem,” the organic ambience of the song is only enhanced by the various bells and chimes present. On the centerpiece title-track (also First Matter’sshortest song at 3:46), the drums go on a half-backwards tape loop Dale Crover spree of intermittent hits punctuating feedback from Balentine, drones and noises of several other shapes and sizes, so you get some sense of diversity in listening to the album in more than just basic sonics.
     “Blanche of Castle” is pastoral psychedelic bliss made even more summery by the almost constant cymbal play. It’s like something Earth might attempt after a really good meal, but somehow less droning and more exploratory than that seminal Seattle outfit’s most recent work. Balentine keeps the guitars on the move, even if they’re peaceful, and the subtle bass-drum hits from Sharpadd a sense of structure, albeit a loose one. Leading into 22-minute closer “Inkailmeva,” it’s a quiet setup for a song that contains all of the above elements with room left over for some extra bombast and even a smoky, late night Hendrix blues jam about 13 minutes in that eventually brings the monolithic piece to its riffy, satisfying conclusion.
     If nothing else, what the track proves is that Sungod, while obviously playing with a focus on spontaneity, are also capable of enacting a plan with a song, and in so doing, to vary their sound even more. First Matter is well within the bounds of modern heavy psych, but the Austin duo work ably in the genre confines to pull of an album that’s still their own. I’d be intrigued to see the layering approach of Balentine and Sharp live — not that it couldn’t be done, it would just require setting up a lot of loops — and if hearing First Matter is what piqued that interest, then the album has done its job.

     Sungod’s First Matter is loud and heavy psychedelic rock from outer space. These five tracks are mostly gargantuan affairs wherein everything swirls, reverberates or drones.
     Nine-and-a-half minute opener “The Key Is No Key” is as appropriate of an introduction as any with its varying tempos, chugging and effect-laden guitars, and careening drums that send you hurling into black holes and milky ways.
     The next few tracks are a bit more subdued, alternating heavy and light atmospheres, while “Blanche of Castile” resets the mood nicely with its soothing strums and picks, and echoey slide guitars.
     It’s a nice and welcome respite from the chaos, especially since it’s followed by the 22-minute “Inkalimeva,” a track that one-ups the previous four to an nth degree with its chugging build-ups, vamps and explosions. It reaches a climax at just over 12 minutes in, followed by a hushed, sparse midsection that slowly builds back into a big, swirling crescendo.
     The bigness of some of these tracks might be a bit much to get your heard around the first time through, and there isn’t too much in the way of “hooks” to hold onto, but as an exercise in interstellar rock, it works nicely.

The Tao-Path is not the All-Tao. The Name is not the Thing named.
Unmanifested, it is the Secret Father of Heaven and Earth; manifested, it is their Mother.
To Understand this Mystery, one must be fulfilling one's will. If one is not thus free, one will but gain a smattering of it.
The Tao is one, and the Te but a phase thereof. The abyss of this Mystery is the Portal of Serpent-Wonder.

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