A few years ago, I was inside a reclaimed terrain, sampling for oil and benzene. One of the PhD fellas asked me what I was listening to the most. I said “space rock”. It took the rest of the sampling time and lunch to get his head around the term. I think he was more worried about isotherms and water levels.
This is relevant to Sundiver’s brainy, science influenced The Pull, an album of proper Space Rock, taking cues from the greatest constellations (Castor, Failure, Hum, The Life and Times and maybe some Tool) and creating vast songs.
‘Lover’s comfort’, the business card of the album, dashes with tactically delivered strum and a playful bassline; a cascade of noises primes the senses for the vertiginous trip. ‘Photography’ is decisively meaner, with a strong rhythm section juxtaposed with the breezier guitars and vocals. ‘The Destroyer’ indulges into a brutal instrumental half that I could be fine with it lasting another 3 minutes. The sheer vastness of the soundscape created by all members of Sundive here seems what makes them such a joy to listen to.
There are a few instrumental cues, all precursors to longer tracks. These instrumentals identify themselves with the songs that follow them, so you have ‘EV’ before the far out levitation that is ‘Photography’, ‘F=G[(m1m2)/(r^2)]’, Newton’s law of universal attraction before ‘The Pull’ and ‘C8H11NO2’, the formula for Dopamine, before ‘Pleasure’. It adds cohesiveness to the album, making it a full story that rewards people who prefer albums instead of singles (nothing wrong with liking singles.)
Now, when you have 9 songs and 3 of them are lemon sherbet like instrumentals that cleanse the palate, you have to maximize your time with the other tracks. ‘The Pull’ has a rarefied atmosphere, rich with musical ideas, odd time signatures and just the right amount of liftoff required to upstage Felix Baumgartner. The sudden change in attitude around 4:43 gave me goosebumps. Next time I see that PhD fella, I might as well make him listen to this. Drumming throughout the album is great but Nick Organ seems to be pretty loose here, leading the way for John Agee and Joseph Wells to go mad on guitar while Bobby Bayer keeps them organized with that stern bassplaying that holds it together.
‘Pleasure’ lives up to its name. Not only is it a fantastic track but like its namesake, it increases in emotion right by the end only to end abruptly. An almost calm first half builds up tension slowly to another explosive half. Like in ‘The Destroyer’, I wouldn’t mind this part to last a little while longer. Buncha cockteases!
‘Relevant’ wraps up the album neatly. If ‘Lover’s comfort’ is a business card, ‘Relevant’ is the “passing of time” montage that pushes a story forward, with key elements of the genre intertwining with recorded transmissions. Maybe these are the voices of lost cosmonauts who found their way back with The Pull. Maybe they are still out there, floating in the pitch black darkness of space. If so, the sounds of Sundiver are the best company up there.
Words: Sam J. Valdes Lopez