Yawning Balch – the collaborative project shared between the members of desert rock band Yawning Man and Fu Manchu’s Bob Balch – unleashed a sprawling giant with their debut release. ‘Volume One’ shared three lengthy instrumentals where the musicians absorbed themselves in a stoner friendly, wavering landscape; it’s improvised riffs going deeper into the desert rock world than many had gone in a long time. It was the perfect record for late night listening, and suggested that, if and when a second volume should arrive, Yawning Balch had the potential to be one of the greatest deep psych/stoner bands ever.
On their 2022 release ‘Polar Night’, instrumentalists In The Ponds crammed a variety of musical moods into a very short playing time. Ranging from spooky, almost prog rock inspired echo driven guitar (‘Lonesome George’) to an atmospheric, David Lynch inflected ambience (‘Someone’s Always Watching’), and even supplying a nod to the distorted blues of The Groundhogs (‘Haruki On The Sand’), it was the kind of EP that created a great musical CV.
As their name more than implies, Yawning Balch is a musical project that combines the talents of the entire Yawning Man band and Fu Manchu guitarist Bob Balch. Stoner fans have come to expect great music from both parties, but in their respective acts, neither have managed anything quite as drawn out as the sounds that fill half of this debut from the desert/stoner rock supergroup. Fu Manchu, especially, have often represented the accessible end of the stoner spectrum, so this really gives Balch an ideal landscape on which to stretch out.
You might assume that a band featuring Fu Manchu’s Brad Davis on various musical duties would take a stoner rock route, but his Gods of Sometimes – a duo formed with similarly multi-faced studio hand Andrew Gukamakis – paints a much broader musical canvas. Their self-titled album has a hazy desert rock air in a couple of places, but the bulk of the material shouldn’t just be pigeonholed as such. Nor is it an easy love letter to an alternative rock past; there are elements within the arrangements that call back a much earlier time, whilst still sounding relevant at the time of recording.
Back in 2005, prog metal band Suns of The Tundra came to the attention of several die-hard Marillion fans when they supported Kino – a short lived musical project shared between Pete Trewavas and future Lonely Robot man John Mitchell – on their one and only tour. They immediately struck a chord with any Tool fans in the audience, but then seemed to disappear. Taking a decade long break between their second and third albums really didn’t help their career momentum, but from 2015, the band have worked steadily, creating interesting and rhythmic noises that add something of great interest to the UK scene.