As little as regional boundaries might matter in the overall realm of post-rock and other forms of alternative guitar-based music, it is so refreshing to hear something that just sounds “foreign.” An album you can listen to from start to finish without ever feeling like you can pigeonhole anything. There are bands that are decisively out there, but that’s not really what I’m talking about here.
What I’m referring to are the bands which, while they might live on the same planet as we do, can effortlessly shrug off the inevitable “So who are your influences?” shtick by simply playing you two songs after one another. Sun Seeker is such an achievement. You could stick Sphaeras and Odradek, the album’s co-protagonists, on a bill with like-minded European or North American bands, and their style would mesh easily. At the same time, it would likely remind you of someone who moves to a different country and learns the language, yet never quite loses his or her accent or cultural mannerisms.
But enough about that, how is the music?
RELEASE DATE: 25 July 2016 LABEL: Self-released
Recommended Tracks: “Triscaidecaphobia”, “Dewgng”
The two bands get things off to a frenetic start together with “Sun Seeker,” the instruments nimbly trading blows over the course of a three-minute-long track that abruptly turns on its head on two different occasions. Odradek take the reins themselves on “Triscaidecaphobia,” a psychedelic tongue-twister employing a busy, hypnotic bass line and some outerwordly guitar sounds to fabulous effect. Four minutes in, the pace slows and the band finish off the piece in style, building a simple stop-start riff into an epic finale.
Each band brings their own style to the table, shining in their own way for the few tracks each one of them has to itself. While Sphaeras make their mark primarily through their janky instrumental breakdowns, Odradek go for haunting, sludgy numbers that have a slight air of goth to them. Their vocalist is a nice addition, adding the requisite ominous overtones. In “Tetrico,” the band deviate to something that, almost unbelievably, would be at home among the indie-pop epidemic that hit us a few years back. The band’s attempt at mainstream appeal thankfully fails just past the halfway mark, as they give up the ruse and go back to shifting time signatures and frenetic syncopation.
As if to apologize for this foray into more lighthearted territory, Odradek team up with Sphaeras and guest vocalist(s?) Weish on “My Wish Is Your Command,” with the latter’s depraved wailing creating what would be the perfect soundtrack to a witches’ den. The album abounds with musical curveballs that delight as much as they catch the listener off-guard, and I could go into far more detail on the individual tracks than befits the scope of this review. Suffice it to say that there is not a single moment on Sun Seeker that feels formulaic or uninspired, and quite a bit of it would easily scare away the less adventurous. The production is also excellent, giving each individual instrument the considerable breathing room such intricate, skilled musicianship necessitates.
Despite all the quirks, however, the musicality of this album never suffers. The often-chromatic noodling always shifts to something more easily palatable just before becoming self-serving, which is something that takes a good amount of honing. In measuring their individual styles against each other, going through a ridiculous amount of ideas in doing so, Sphaeras and Odradek have created something quite unlike anything I’ve heard before.
Granted, this is a collaborative effort, and therefore has an unfair advantage over albums put out by any one band. Without having delved too much into each band’s individual discography, however, I was often unable to distinguish between the two while listening to this album. In a way, that’s its own accomplishment: On Sun Seeker, Sphaeras and Odradek mesh into a cohesive whole without sacrificing any of the individual qualities making them so unique.