As the light faded upon the last days of 2014, Brooklyn garage-psych merchants Sun Voyager put their stamp upon the year’s last essential purchase when they dropped a few tracks as part of a split release with label mates The Greasy Hearts. The Hearts’ trashy, Stonesy energy provided the perfect foil for the Voyager’s swirling swamps of sound, and were perhaps more accessible of the two acts, but Sun Voyager’s commitment to deep psyche noise suggested there would be more great music to come from their neighbourhood in the future. ‘Lazy Daze’ (their third EP) presents the band on a bigger scale than ever before, its five numbers bringing fuzzy guitars galore, often coupled with other-worldly vocals that sound as if they’re drifting in from another room.
Lead track ‘God Is Dead’ shows the band at their heaviest in terms of both riffs and claustrophobic sound. Released as a download prior to the ‘Greasy Voyage’ split, this tune is a full on garage-psych groover, the bastard child of the earliest Blue Oyster Cult recordings and the more groove-laden touches of Sabbath. A heavily filtered vocal courtesy of frontman Carlos Fransisco taps into long notes a plenty, adding a crying melody that in places seems at odds with the general crunch, but in terms of spaciness, eventually finds itself in a place of dominance. For the second half of the number, the band slow things right down, settling on a doomy riff that’s straight from the same epic world as those of the UK’s own Transmaniacon. “Your god is dead” they warn repeatedly, in an unsettling manner atop the doom groove, thus creating a suitably bleak climax before everything descends into squalls of feedback. This is Sun Voyager at their most oppressive – and it sets the tone for most of what follows excellently.
Stepping up the pace, ‘Black Angel’ powers along like a low-budget lo-fi garage band jamming loose versions of early Blue Oyster Cult tunes, centring around a repetitive riff providing a monotonous yet cool vibe with buzzing guitars. A scorching lead adds extra edge – albeit buried in Sun Voyager’s preferred sludgy mix. The crashing drums and twin guitars collide in a wall of sound, often fuzzy, always intense. The vocal occasionally gets lost in a swamp, but the end results sound cool with the volume cranked. Delving deeper into Sun Voyager’s world of wooze, ‘Gypsy Hill’ sounds like Hawkwind playing a slow waltz with their amps cranked up as far as possible. The guitars lay down an impressive distorted groove, under which Francisco’s usual echoing tones wail appropriately. It’s not a complete voyage into mind-blowing fuzz; occasional lulls allow cleaner tones to emanate from Steve Friedman’s guitar, but any experimenting with quieter sounds appear brief; Sun Voyager are most at ease when going all out. In terms of taking a simple, direct riff and making it count, this track is a resounding success. The smoother elements that crept through ‘Gipsy Hill’ finally get to assert themselves throughout ‘Be Here Now’, a tune on which bassist Stefan Mersch can be heard most clearly. This tune belongs to his slow, methodical thudding sounds, which combined with Kyle Beach’s percussive sounds show the workings of a raw but entertaining rhythm section. With Beach constantly switching between soft beats and a huge crashing sound reminiscent of Nick Mason’s performances from Pink Floyd’s late 60s live recordings, there’s always something to focus on, especially useful when this song appears to lack the instant spark of Voyager’s other recordings here.
The title cut blends the slow rhythmic edge of ‘Gypsy Hill’ with an even more spaced out vibe. The guitars clang throughout, but again, the bulk of the sound is carried by Beach, often playing with a very natural swing over his snares. Like parts of ‘God Is Dead’, the vocal is so detached, Francisco could well be wailing wordless melodies, such as the difficulty is to ascertain any actual lyrics. No matter; if each of the elements are viewed purely as instrumentation, this gives a pretty full picture of Sun Voyager’s deep psych sounds. …And as the slide guitar creeps in at the end, almost theramin-like, the sense that you could just be carried off with the band as the last sounds fade proves a great way of leaving the listener hanging…waiting…for that all important next trip.
If you’ve not yet experienced the work of Sun Voyager, this is required listening: more focused than their first EP, deeper than their contributions to the ‘Grease Voyage’ split. Five tunes with a DIY intensity that really hits hard; lo-fi grooves, spacey vibes and just enough variety to keep you coming back.