Guest Review: Dan Alland on Sunwolf UK

Sunwolf – Beyond the Sun

By Dan Alland

Patience is a virtue. This proverb appears to be the pre-eminent mantra for UK ambient risers, Sunwolf, whose debut album – “Beyond the Sun” – is set for its much anticipated release: 26/11/2012 on Ark Noise Records. The album was recorded with Ross Halden (Wild Beasts/Rolo Tomassi) and mastered by the highly regarded engineer, Mell Dettmer (Sunn O))), Earth, Sleep, Boris). Leeds-based duo, Sunwolf, comprise of DIY veterans, Dominic Deane (drums/organ) and Matthew Carrington (guitar/samples).

Track one, “Genesis”, opens with 90 seconds of mono-tonal guitar ambience, laying a texture of warming resonance that builds a towering sense of anticipation. We are then greeted, incrementally, by extra instrumentation, piece-by-piece, step-by-step, softly softly catchy monkey, till our concept of time eventually melts away like Dali’s clock. The mood, texture and ambience carries forth to its successor, “Solar”, which works as a kind of reprise to Genesis. Drums stab through the doomy, moody guitars, creating drama with their linear simplicity, till both instruments collide to build a crescendo, until we’re back where we started, lost in a sea of ambience, wandering, wondering.

“Morose Land” is up next, and though it doesn’t jump straight into action, there is something about the impatient, abrasive tone of the ringing guitar that tells us that we’re about to take a slightly more ominous fork in the road. A Red Sparrows-esque pulsing drum beat bursts through and rides the waves of droning guitar, till it crashes on ambient shores, just on the periphery of Sludgetown. Cos that’s where we’re headed next with album title track, “Beyond the Sun”; an all-out sludgefest of hypnotic riffing and inventive grooving, displaced backbeats et al. Subsequent track, “Intertia”, treats us to some clean, spine-shivering chord shapes and a sample playing the evocative innocence of a school playground, adding yet more dynamic, dimension and deviation to the mise-en-scène of this record.

The penultimate track, “Time Stands Still”, could be considered the stand out track on the album. The tremolo, science-fiction guitar-bed, over which sitar sounds dance gracefully, takes us to the album’s promised destination: a place where time stands still. That is until we’re taken to the aptly-named final track, “Home”. A melancholic guitar, marinated in sadness, repeats, fades, then disappears. Perpetuating beneath this, is a drowning, waterlogged guitar modulation, reminiscent of the vocal line to Mogwai’s “Hunted by a Freak”, that leaves us longing in the wake of its denouement.

We now live in a society, here in Britain, that considers itself too busy to learn or enjoy anything that isn’t easily digestible. We’d rather get bite-sized news stories, instead of having to go through the rigmarole of checking the details; we prefer pre-packaged pop stars courtesy of Simon Cowell and Co, rather than having to discover raw, rough-round-the-edges talent and watch it blossom over time; we’d rather watch Hollywood adaptations of classic novels, instead of putting ourselves through the drudgery of having to read an entire book. I would argue that this lackadaisical attitude to the cultural landscape has left the vast majority of us ill informed, philinstinic and lazy. Sunwolf are the antidote.

For fans of Barn Owl, Earth, Fall of Efrafa and Isis, Sunwolf’s hypnotic mix of stoner rock, ambience and drone riffery, make a very profound statement about the current JLS, KFC, BNP tabloid culture that has infiltrated the average Briton’s psyche. These people aren’t beyond the pale, they just need to reach Beyond the Sun.

Dan Alland is a music writer from the UK. He writes regularly for Virgin Red Room and Sabotage Times. He used to play drums for the now defunct death metal band, Chaos Blood. Follow him on Twitter @danalland

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