What is there to a mind unleashed? How can a person write about Sungod’s new album Wave Refraction — releasing Aug. 24 on Holodeck Records — when the experience is a multi-genre experiment into a particularly poignant type of transcendence?
Waves are refracted when the medium through which they pass changes, causing an alteration in how they travel, and therefore how they’re perceived. A spoon can look bent in a glass, music can muffle in water, rainbows can color the sky, and a lush oasis can emerge on the horizon of a parched desert landscape.
Experiencing the instrumental six-track, 39-minute Wave Refraction can have similar perception-altering effects. Sungod’s deep-dive into kosmische psychedelia blasts through like Sun Ra and Ashra refracted through a prism of early and post-Waters Pink Floyd, Laraaji, and Tangerine Dream soundtracks. However, Sungod isn’t content to merely mimic their musical forebears — such laziness is not in the repertoire of this band, nor of Holodeck. (A label with the likes of SURVIVE, Jake Schrock, Samantha Glass, Omni Gardens, Lou Rebecca, Thousand Foot Whale Claw, and dozens of other talented souls is never content to just bunt.)
The sonic diversity exhibited on Wave Refraction is impressive. Sungod’s Braden Balentine, Michael C. Sharp, Kristine Reaume, Nick Lombard and Harpal Assi kick off the record with chunky guitar riffage bathed in synths and heavy-hit acoustic drums — by the time the record concludes they’ve passed through a realm of arp-driven contemplations and noodling flute meditations, ultimately landing in a 909-led synth score.
Although there is a track specifically entitled “Hypnotism,” and an entrancing rock number it is, the entire record is hypnotic. Over the course of the various musical expressions — electronic or acoustic, arrangements that drive forward or pause in place — Sungod has a penchant for essentially taking over your mind. You get lost in the threads of each track and experience the privilege of a series of moments when you’re not caught up in conventional thoughts.
Sharp and Balentine formed Sungod in 2009, bonding over a love for the likes of Sun Ra, Tangerine Dream, and John Fahey, according to their bio. They started out with synths, bass, electric guitar, and acoustic drums, and over the years expanded their sonic palette to meet the demands of their creative spark: flutes, acoustic guitars, drum machines, pianos, and field recordings manifested in later songs. Over the course of the expansion of the depth and breadth of their sound, their contemporary form of transcendence became more achievable. It’s hit a high water mark here.
Sungod’s Wave Refraction to me represents a strong statement about the nature of how we perceive the messages we receive and what we do with those messages. When we’re given a chance to reach further, think more expansively, see with richer colors, and hear with more intuition, what will we do with that opportunity? Will these noble waves refract into the abyss when they pass through us, or will we direct them toward a useful, life-changing end?
So often we are given a chance to right a wrong, heal a wound, build a bridge, eschew cynicism, or just understand something better — to dive deep within ourselves to extract the answers we know we know to the questions that may not have ever crossed our minds.
In the heavy riffs of “Little Gold Mouth,” in the expressive onslaught of big drums and a flautist’s flutter on “Birth & Speed Merging,” and in the club-ready “Von Innen,” Sungod gives us the chance to contemplate those messages. What kind of medium will you be?
Wave Refraction comes out tomorrow, Aug. 24, in digital, 150g black vinyl, and cassette versions. Get it on Holodeck’s Bandcamp page.