Sonnymoon is a crank concept album about existential energy: its rise and fall, and the unity to be found in opposition. The group – long-term project of Dane Orr and Anna Wise – declare on their website that their mission is to represent in musical arrangement the collision between Earth and waning utopic planet Sonnymoon, trying to “make sense of foreign concepts such as ignorance, mediocrity, and suburbia”. “Prepare for your world to change”, they proclaim.
Much of the colour and hue on this lavishly bigged-up album in fact derives from their remarkable blend of male and female energy: Orr’s pulsating production makes the perfect match to Wise’s cockamamie harmonies. It’s a kaleidoscopic album – at times delicate, at times impatient: an explosive experiment gone, well, almost perfectly. Drawing inspiration from Animal Collective, A Tribe…, and Bjork, the resulting long-player is chock-full with an impracticable mix of genres: psych, through hip hop, to pop. Jazz even sidles up at one point. The result is a veritable WTF combination.
Another model present is the Freudian “economy of energy”: the increases and declines in nervous energy that inevitably mark human existence and its works of art (please, please don’t let all this philosophizing put you off). Thus, the album swerves capriciously between hedonistic RnB and a rather more frazzled psychedelia. Take the two tunes which bookend the album (both highlights and pinnacles of energetic experimentation): ‘Wild Rumpus’ is a self-explanatory freak-out jam of bleepy soundscapes and nebulous yelps and shrieks; ‘Just Before Dawn’ is a two-part epic in which Wise’s coos are allied to echoed synth twinks, before the whole thing blurs into an orchestral finale draped in a woozy haze of mind-fucking electronics, harp and vocals. It’s over 8 minutes long.
One of my favourite albums of the year is awE naturalE by similarly confusing Seattle duo THEESatisfaction, and these are two records which actually share heaps in common: Lauryn Hill flavoured vocals, heck loads of loops and a FlyLo kind of glitch. On ‘Greatness’, all of the above are underpinned with an incessant dancefloor groove whilst Wise tackles the theme of the now non-existent utopia, intoning, “great isn’t perfect even though sometimes it seems that way,” in the perfectly cadenced chorus. Most striking is the malleability of her voice, employed with the innate diversity of a hundred different instruments.
Whilst they follow up the homemade hip hop feel with the blissed-out chants of ‘Watersboiled’, the undeniable album centrepiece is ‘Kali’, cymbals aflame, whose unexpected jazzy textures entwining delicate harmonies and reverberating double bass make for a pure delight. This song marks the mid-point of the record’s energetic flow, yet defiantly avoids lulling itself into a void of nothingness. Thankfully, of course, this doesn’t happen anywhere else either; Sonnymoon have successfully created a magnificent, magical and cohesive album steeped in pretension, marketing ploys and unorthodoxy. This certainly isn’t a record for the easily unnerved, but who’d have thought it was even workable?