Music has the power to tell elaborate stories, evoke intense emotions, and convey the deep feelings of artists, but it’s often that there isn’t much beyond those pieces. Don’t get me wrong; you don’t always need to go beyond stories and personal experiences, but sometimes there are artists who take a chance on taking their work further, resulting in material that is both uncommon and fantastical. It’s not everyday that an album carries my mind into such a specific place.
Sun Blood Stories
Ben Kirby, Amber Pollard, and John Fust of Sun Blood Stories have been experimenting in all the right ways. The Boise, ID band is soon releasing their third album, It Runs Around the Room with Us, and it is an absolute adventure. Describing themselves as a “DIY high desert psych band,” Sun Blood Stories embraces the experimental to craft entire atmospheres that feel entirely tangible and alive.
From the opening track to the climactic finish, the album drags you down into the depths of a burning underworld, clawing at your skin all the way. The tones illicit the sense that you have been transported to a vast scape of open desert, alternating between a climate of blistering sunlight and frigid cold night. The opening, End of the Day, sets a scene of solitude amongst a swirling sea of strange, distant ambience. This and the other calm sections of the album almost appear to have taken some influence from the style of Brian Eno, translated into psych-rock backdrops flowing effortlessly with unrecognizable sounds. These fabricated environments of distorted audio loops, undistinguishable echoing vocals, and quite alien noises in their outer layers had me convinced I was in some dream-like, (or perhaps nightmarish,) plane of existence. Eclipse Theme in particular made me picture that one scene from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, entering with a series of rolling cymbals that evoked a sense of mystery and hallucination.
The keyword here is odyssey. The whole album is an epic, detailing a sprawling pilgrimage from the first gentle seconds to the last barrage of vocals in the resolution. Many of the songs are bookended by more complex, rhythmically fluctuating sections that escalate like mountain ranges peaking up closer and closer to the barrage of the sun’s heat, rolling back down into valleys of long, minimal keyboard synths and drawn-out guitar twangs. As soon as a calming stretch of the album comes along, it is never long until the percussion picks up and what was once relaxing descends into a chaotic panic of warped effects and dramatic tonal shifts.
As a whole, the album works like a book or movie, with an introduction, plot progression, climax, and resolution all providing a slow but continuously-flowing structure. Because of this, it can be difficult to listen to a single track outside the context of the rest, with the exception being Great Destroyer, (which I assume is why the band chose to release it as a single before the album.) The thundering drums and wicked guitar crunch give off vibes of a science-fiction wild west, and vocals are more present here than elsewhere in the album. Essentially, It Runs Around the Room with Us is meant to be listened to in full rather than as individual songs, which I argue is a good thing, being that singles are so focused on in the larger music world these days. You have to sit down to hear the whole thing, to soak in the album in its entirety, the same way you would sit down to watch a film.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and I hope other folks are willing to give it a chance, as unconventional a project as it is. The seemingly endless experimentation present in this album will be quite enough to attract music fanatics, but I encourage casual listeners to come with an open mind and treat it as an experience rather than something to put on while doing homework or something else. Dedicate 53 minutes out of your day to listen through it all, and I promise you will not regret it. I’ll be looking forward to seeing where Sun Blood Stories treads next!