Personnel: Jim McHugh (electric guitar, electric piano, keyboards); Jeff Tobias (alto saxophone); Peter Kerlin (bass guitar); Jason Robira (drums).
Audio Mixers: Sunwatchers; Charles Burst.
Recording information: Lone Pine Road, Kingston, NY.
Editor: Chelsey Pettyjohnd.
Photographer: Aaron Diskin.
Sporting an extensive lineup of New York City music scene regulars headed by Jim McHugh (Nymph, Dark Meat), Sunwatchers are difficult to categorize, but their music is exuberant, freewheeling, and bursting with barely contained energy. The group combines hypnotic layers of guitars, saxophone, keyboards, and other instruments, resulting in a flowing mass of sound reminiscent of Terry Riley, vintage Ethiopian recordings featured on the Ethiopiques series of compilation albums, and avant-jazz luminaries such as Albert Ayler and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. McHugh plays a Thai instrument called an electric phin, which is somewhat similar to a lute, lending to the music's otherworldly quality. On slower moments such as "For Sonny," there's a bit of a desert blues influence, with swarming, sun-baked guitars layered over the still-intense unhurried rhythm. "Moroner" even feels like a more mystical version of a laid-back Southern rock jam, but with spirals of blazing saxophone, scorching guitar pyrotechnics, and glittering keyboards faintly audible in the background. The album's most exultant burst of ecstasy, "White Woman," contains squalling guitar and impressive swirling saxophone patterns set to a blistering punk tempo. On "Ape Phases," the group starts off with a jumpy rhythm for a few minutes before launching into free-form chaos and ending up at a faster, revitalized iteration of the original rhythm. The band knows when to slow down and space out, with the sparse guitars, serene saxophone melody, and softly lapping waves of drums on "Eusubius" swaying like a gentle meadow breeze. Album finale "Moonchanges" begins in a similar calm state, freely floating with no apparent destination until a steady, excited rhythm builds and the group takes one last opportunity to dazzle. The album feels joyous and celebratory at all points, constantly reveling in the excitement and spontaneity of life. ~ Paul Simpson